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LONDON: Darwin Nunez scored twice to help Liverpool rout Sparta 5-1 and take a big step closer to the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday.

Nunez’s right-footed shot from 25 meters (yards) flew past goalkeeper Peter Vindahl to double Liverpool’s early lead after Alexis Mac Allister’s penalty in Prague in the first leg of the round of 16.

The Uruguay international’s first strike of the evening was the 1,000th Liverpool goal scored under manager Jurgen Klopp, whose team will host the second leg next week at Anfield.

“We’re happy about the result and the performance,” Klopp told Czech public television. “Our goals were fantastic.”

In first-half stoppage time, Nunez let a pass from Mac Allister bounce in the right corner of the area before firing inside the far post for his second.

Nunez scored in the ninth minute of stoppage time Saturday to earn Liverpool a 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest in the Premier League.

In Prague, Liverpool needed just a few minutes to go ahead.

Mac Allister sent Vindahl the wrong way in the sixth minute to convert a penalty awarded after the Argentine was downed in the area by Asger Sørensen.

Conor Bradley reduced the lead to 3-1 with an own goal a minute after he came on as substitute at the start of the second half. Luis Díaz restored the three-goal advantage seven minutes later.

Dominik Szoboszlai added a goal in stoppage time.

Next for Liverpool is a seismic meeting at Anfield against Manchester City on Sunday.

In a positive sign for the Reds, Mohamed Salah returned from injury as a substitute in the 74th minute.

Bundesliga leader Bayer Leverkusen made a long trip to Baku and needed a stoppage-time equalizer to draw 2-2 with Qarabag and extend their German record unbeaten run to 35 games across all competitions this season.

Substitute striker Patrik Schick rose in the area to head in an equalizer after another substitute Florian Wirtz had reduced Qarabag’s lead to one in 70th.

The teams also met in the group stage — Leverkusen won 5-1 at home and 1-0 in Baku.

Leverkusen returns to Germany ahead of a potentially tricky Bundesliga game against Wolfsburg on Sunday.

Roma’s renaissance under coach Daniele De Rossi continued with a 4-0 thumping of Brighton at Stadio Olimpico.

Paulo Dybala and Romelu Lukaku gave the hosts 2-0 lead in the first half. Gianluca Mancini and Bryan Cristante finished it off in the second.

Roma has won eight of 10 matches across all competitions — with only one loss, to Serie A leader Inter Milan, since De Rossi replaced the fired Jose Mourinho.

In a pre-match incident, two Brighton fans were hospitalized in Rome after being stabbed. During the game, Brighton said it reported to UEFA and local police that bottles, coins and lighters were “being thrown by home supporters into the away end.”

Marseille keeps on scoring for new coach Jean-Louis Gasset, beating 10-man Villarreal 4-0 for a total of 16 goals in four games under him.

Striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted from the spot and added one more for his 33rd career goal in the Europa League to improve his own competition record. Marseille also got a goal from Jordan Veretout and own goal from Yerson Mosquera.

Olivier Giroud, Tijjani Reijnders and Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored a goal each at the end of the first half to put AC Milan in control 3-1 over 10-man Slavia Prague at San Siro. Ivan Schranz scored one more for Slavia before Christian Pulisic clinched a 4-2 win for the Italian powerhouse.

Michael Gregoritsch’s late goal secured a 1-0 home victory for Freiburg over West Ham.

An own goal from Rangers’ defender Connor Goldson salvaged a 2-2 draw for two-time European champion Benfica in Lisbon.

Europa Conference League

In the third-tier competition, Aston Villa held Ajax 0-0 in Amsterdam. Both teams finished the game with 10 men after Ajax midfielder Tristan Gooijer and Villa defender Ezri Konsa received their second yellow card in the last 10 minutes.

Lille relied on two goals from Canadian striker Jonathan David en route to a 3-0 victory at Sturm Graz.

Maccabi Tel Aviv also recorded a comprehensive 4-1 victory at Olympiacos and Norway’s Molde beat Club Brugge 2-1.

Antonín Barak scored five minutes into stoppage time for last year’s runner-up Fiorentina’s 4-3 victory over Maccabi Haifa in a game played in Budapest, Hungary due to the Israel’s war with Hamas.

Fenerbahce won 3-0 at Union Saint-Gilloise in Brussels. Dinamo Zagreb defeated PAOK 2-0 while Servette played to a goalless home draw with Viktoria Plzeň.

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