Liverpool ultimately started their Europa League campaign with a victory which for an hour seemed unlikely. Having fallen behind to a Florian Flecker screamer, Jürgen Klopp’s side, after 11 changes from the starting line-up for Saturday’s victory over Wolves, struggled for fluency.
When Darwin Nunez’s first-half header was saved by Tobias Lawal, it would have been easy for the Uruguay centre-forward to drop his head but he carried on making the runs and was rewarded by being awarded penalty duties in Mohamed Salah’s absence and equalised from the spot when Liverpool were awarded a soft penalty for Philipp Ziereis’s foul on Luis Diaz.
With the game now level, Klopp seized his chance to turn the screw, sending on Dominic Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister and Joe Gomez who injected some pace and precision into the passing. When Ryan Garvenberch was sent down the right by Harvey Elliott’s sweetly laced pass, Diaz made the perfect run to turn in the cross to put Liverpool ahead.
Minutes later Gravenberch limped off to be replaced by Salah who applied the coup de grace to LASK with the kind of goal that has become so familiar over the past six years. Nunez spotted the winger cutting in off the right and played it to his feet. Three touches later he had glided between two defenders, opened his body and bent in Liverpool’s third at the far post. Mission accomplished in Austria though they made heavy work of it.
LASK 1-3 Liverpool: as it happened
07:39 PM BST
It was tougher than it needed to be, but Liverpool are building a reputation as comeback specialists. In truth, they were a class above their Austrian opponents and it was a bit daft they were behind at half-time. The win also means Jurgen Klopp is the first Liverpool manager to win 50 European games. Quite the feat given the stature of his peers.
07:38 PM BST
Full time: LASK 1 Liverpool 3
Liverpool start their Europa League campaign with a victory over LASK, gradually finding some fluency in the second half after a disjointed first. The substitutes changed things as such an injection of class would tend to do.
07:37 PM BST
90+4 min LASK 1 Liverpool 3
Now Liverpool are content to let the half peter out just like the first.
07:34 PM BST
90+2 min LASK 1 Liverpool 3
Salah, like his manager, is smiling. He has enjoyed his cameo. No one wants to fly all that way and not have a run-out.
07:33 PM BST
90 min LASK 1 Liverpool 3
Five minutes of stoppage time go up on the board.
07:30 PM BST
LASK 1 Liverpool 3 (Salah) Szoboszlai’s tenacity wins the ball on the right and Nunez pounces when the ball runs free after his team-mate is tackled. He cuts it back for Salah who wriggles between a couple of defenders then opens his body and scores a trademark goal into the far corner with his left foot. Elliott and Diaz were screaming for it but as Sadio Mane could have told them, there was no way he was not going to shoot from there. And Klopp finally smiles.
07:29 PM BST
85 min LASK 1 Liverpool 2
From a LASK long-throw on the right Tsimikas puts his arm across Ziereis who hits the deck screaming. Not to be out-acted in the penalty area, Tsimikas also falls over wailing and earns the free-kick.
07:27 PM BST
84 min LASK 1 Liverpool 2
Liverpool fans have relaxed enough to give us a rousing ‘Allez x3’.
Szoboszlai controls a pass with a deft touch and then releases Elliott down the inside left. Elliott dinks it forward then scythes a left-foot daisycutter that Lawal easily covers.
07:25 PM BST
81 min LASK 1 Liverpool 2
Dominic Szoboszlai has been on for seven minutes. Think he might already be man-of-the-match.
He’s the conductor.
07:22 PM BST
80 min LASK 1 Liverpool 2
Gomez glides into fifth gear to catch and beat Mustafa as he hares down the left.
Darboe ⇢ Luckeneder
07:21 PM BST
78 min LASK 1 Liverpool 2
Liverpool exploit Salah’s class with a ball for him to stride on to down the right. He skitters up the byline and fizzes over s cross for Diaz who slides in to stab a shot on goal that is turned away.
07:19 PM BST
76 min LASK 1 Liverpool 2
LASK break after Salah’s snap shot from the left of the penalty spot is blocked at the right post but the pace of Mustafa and Kone are not enough to pierce the Liverpool defence.
07:18 PM BST
74 min LASK 1 Liverpool 2
Gravenberch cannot go on.
Salah ⇢ Gravenberch.
07:16 PM BST
72 min LASK 1 Liverpool 2
Garvenberch sits down and signals to the bench after being stymied in his effort to tie the game up when he barrelled forward for 40 yards and lost control as he prepared to lay it off to Diaz and then shoot when it was cut out and deflected back to him.
07:13 PM BST
69 min LASK 1 Liverpool 2
Two changes for LASK out wide
Mustafa ⇢ Ljubicic
Kone ⇢ Havel.
07:11 PM BST
66 min LASK 1 Liverpool 2
Klopp didn’t celebrate that goal at all. He may be frustrated by the performance for an hour but there was much to commend from Nunez, Elliott, Gravenberch and Diaz.
07:08 PM BST
LASK 1 Liverpool 2 (Diaz) Slick goal. Nunez controlled Konate’s long pass on halfway, held it up then turned to his right to find Elliott who laced a pass with the outside of his left foot to send Gravenberch away down the right. The Dutch midfielder took the pass in his stride, picked up his head and whipped over a centre between the spot and teh six-yard line and Diaz arrived punctually to sweep in the finish.
Notable increase in speed brings the equaliser. it felt like it was coming once Liverpool stopped trying to pass into the next.
Not sure what Klopp is telling his players at half-time this season to inspire these comebacks. Whatever it is, perhaps he should say it before the game? Could be a cunning plan.
07:05 PM BST
62 min LASK 1 Liverpool 1
Fine save from Kelleher with his feet from Lubicic who was probably offside aftera goalmouth scramble and Liverpool losing their bearings in the box.
07:04 PM BST
60 min LASK 1 Liverpool 1
Triple Liverpool substitution:
Gomez ⇢ Bajcetic
Mac Allister ⇢ Endo
Szoboszlai ⇢ Doak
07:02 PM BST
57 min LASK 1 Liverpool 1
Mistake from Endo lets Horvath in for a shot that infuriates Klopp.
06:58 PM BST
LASK 1 Liverpool 1 (Nunez) Buries the equaliser, bottom left. It was a very soft penalty, so soft I’m not sure it should have stood, at least from the angle we were shown. Bajcetic had got in down the right to fizz a cross through the six-yard box that was headed for no one. Andrade turned it away from goal, Diaz stole in to shoot ... wide ,,, but then his leg and Ziereis’s collided and he went over.
06:57 PM BST
VAR will have a look.
06:56 PM BST
54 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Renner is penalised for a foul on Doak. Liverpool free-kick wide on the right 40 yards from the goalline. Liverpool cross but cannot penetrate the box. LASK comfortably see it off to 35 yards where Bajcetic tries an up and under that LASK also clear.
06:54 PM BST
52 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Gravenberch slips a pass into Nunez who runs through his repertoire of feints and showcases lovely close control as he tacks right in the box, looking for an opening to shoot. He beats one, he beats two but the gap never opens and when he spins to try to take it back the other way, Andrade tackles him.
06:52 PM BST
50 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Good sliding tackle by Bajcetic on Ljubicic and he gets to his feet quickly to move the ball upfield though nothing comes of it. Scraps of quality amid the dross.
06:51 PM BST
48 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Flecker tries to send a long pass up the right for Ljubicic but, like Bajcetic, he gets too much on it. Pretty lousy few minutes at the start of this second period.
06:49 PM BST
46 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
No changes for Liverpool at the break. No immediate injection of energy at the start of this half as Bajcetic slots a long pass up the touchline that bobbles out of play as Doak gives chase. Klopp tells Salah to put his shnners on.
06:38 PM BST
The danger of wholesale changes exposed in the first half. The experiment of Bajcetic as a hybrid full-back/midfielder evidently needs work, and unfortunately Nunez has momentarily reverted to last season’s goal to chance ratio. The Uruguayan should have at least a couple of goals. As in a couple of games already this season, the question is how soon before Klopp brings on the subs. Late cavalry charges have become somewhat of a theme recently.
06:36 PM BST
Half-time: LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Flecker gave LASK the lead with a blinder but Liverpool have enjoyed a kind of sterile dominance throughout. If they can find more pace and purpose with their forward passing and deign to release the ball earlier, they should get back into this. Only a fabulous save from Lawal denied them an equaliser but an entirely new team is bound to struggle for rhythm. LASK are playing well, too.
06:33 PM BST
45+1 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Uefa is not following the Premier League model of applying seemingly excessive stoppage time to each half. Just the one minute here as the half peters out.
06:32 PM BST
45 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Tsimikas hangs on to the ball too long on the break by turning back towards his own goal when Diaz and Nunez were haring ahead. But eh buys a foul off Zulj. It broke their momentum ... not the free-kick but Tsimikas’ earlier decision to delay the release.
06:30 PM BST
43 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Very flat performance so far from Liverpool, lacking zip and precision in the pass. Bajcetic is booked when he steps across Ljubicic to stop him sprinting up the wing after Doak lost the ball.
06:28 PM BST
41 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Konate is booked for dissent after protesting the award of a foul against him. Liverpool defend the cross and Jovicic pumps a long half-volley over.
06:26 PM BST
39 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
TNT Sports or whoever it buys the feed from is showing the goal again. A proper lash. A belter arrowed into the bottom left corner from the right of the D.
06:24 PM BST
37 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Liverpool corner on the right after good work by Doak. Tsimikas bends it to the back post, Van Dijk heads it back across and Nunez closes in for the coup de grace but Lawal makes a fabulous point-blank save with both hands.
06:22 PM BST
35 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
The crowd roars its approval for a sliding tackel on Diaz by Jovicic. Sweetly-timed.
06:19 PM BST
32 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Tsimikas follows the clearance out and offers support to Diaz on the underlap. The winger plays it back to the flying full-back who whips a cross through the six-yard box. Gravenberch, splitting to the front post, just fails to spin in time to reach it and Lawal, the keeper, reaches it first with a lunge which he kicks into Andrade but the ball falls safe.
06:17 PM BST
30 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Ziereis wins the first header and Tsimikas cracks it away.
06:16 PM BST
28 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Klopp is having a barney with the fourth official over the referee’s decision not to award a free-kick when Ljubicic seems to shove Konate over and hence get round him to shoot/cross. Van Dijk blocks it and Renner gets to show us his Delap of a throw.
06:14 PM BST
26 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Chance for Nunez, made by excellent control to trap the ball with his head on the edge of the area and then he spins to hook a half-volley on target that Andrade clocks. Nunez tears at his hair in frustration.
06:12 PM BST
24 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
No huge sense of urgency yet from Liverpool who are looking to use Nunez’s pace in behind but haven’t measured their passes properly.
06:09 PM BST
Live from our correspondent
Bit of disbelief among the home fans after that opening goal. Liverpool had been looking a class above in possession as they eased into the game, but some sloppy work gifted the corner from which Flecker hit that belter. Suspect it will not be the last goal in this game, though. Pretty open stuff.
06:09 PM BST
21 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Liverpool were very sleepy in the first-half at Molineux too and lack rhythm here early on. Tsimikas, with Diaz well-placed and free a head of him, takes on a shot from 20+ yards and drags it wide of the right post.
06:07 PM BST
18 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Klopp applauds a Nunez header from a fine Elliott left-foot cross from the left, arcing it to the right of the penalty spot. Nunez meets it and steers it over. He needed to get over it and head it down, says Steve McManaman. He stayed on his feet when he should have jumped to apply more power and a downwards trajectory.
06:03 PM BST
16 min LASK 1 Liverpool 0
Jurgen Klopp looks stunned more than angry. A proper pearler.
06:00 PM BST
LASK 1-0 Liverpool (Flecker) Needlessly conceded corner, Konate’s error costing Liverpool there. The corner is driven to the right of the D with the box packed. Flecker cushions it superbly then absolutely hammers a half-volley from 18-20 yards hard and flat into the corner. Super strike.
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) September 21, 2023
05:59 PM BST
12 min LASK 0 Liverpool 0
Doak dribbles down the right, burning past Luckenederm employing a nifty step-over, but Andrade knocks his cross behind for a corner. Tsimikas takes it short, gets it back to change the angle and arrows a cross towards the back post.
Ziereis makes a terrific defensive header back-pedalling to deny Van Dijk.
05:57 PM BST
10 min LASK 0 Liverpool 0
Long ball up the inside right from Van Dijk sails over Doak’s head and out for a goal-kick.
05:54 PM BST
8 min LASK 0 Liverpool 0
Liverpool probe down the left with Diaz and Tsimikas but double back to switch it to the right. Some nice touches from Doak but he concedes the free-kick when his last attempted pass, seeking Elliott, is cut out.
05:52 PM BST
6 min LASK 0 Liverpool 0
Tsimikas bends in the inswinger from the right with his left, more floaty than whipped and Van Dijk can only nod it tamely back across goal. LASK scramble it away.
05:51 PM BST
5 min LASK 0 Liverpool 0
Liverpool corner on the right when Gravenberch’s long cross, teed up by Endo’s cute pass, is headed behind by Flecker.
05:50 PM BST
4 min LASK 0 Liverpool 0
Liverpool shift the ball up the inside-right for Nunez to chase, which he does and shoots as it drops as he enters the box but the angle is too acute and he flays it into the hoardings.
05:49 PM BST
3 min LASK 0 Liverpool 0
Flecker shows his better side by earning a corner for LASK when his cross hits Tsimikas. Horvath has two goes at it, the first knocked behind for its sequel which ends up with Van Dijk blocking Jovicic’s half-volley from the edge of the area.
05:48 PM BST
1 min LASK 0 Liverpool 0
After a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the Morocco earthquake and Libya’s floods, Liverpool kick-off, dressed up as Prince circa 1985. Kelleher tries a long diagonal chip up the right that comes back at Liverpool. Kelleher slides it back into midfield for Gravenberch who is scythed down by Flecker.
05:43 PM BST
Lots of flag waving from the home crowd
Black and red. Nice, too, as the Europa League anthem plays. Not exactly a banger this one
05:42 PM BST
Here come the teams
Lask in white with three vertical black stripes down the right. ‘LASK would have dreamt of playing Liverpool,’ Owen says now. Make it stop.
05:41 PM BST
'A cup final for every team with Liverpool in town' klaxon
From Michael Owen. TNT Sports is really spoiling us with its punditry.
05:30 PM BST
Klopp on LASK's strength
“Both wing-backs can throw the ball out of the stadium, we have to defend well.”
05:21 PM BST
Taking on opponents who play in black and white
Liverpool have decided, obviously, to wear a lilac strip.
It’s Lilac Time for the Gaffer, too. He would never ask his players to do something he wouldn’t do himself:
05:08 PM BST
Universal fan experience
“Reduce Ticket Prices!” - few of these around Linz. The universal language of football fans feeling fleeced. pic.twitter.com/ksLltAOD9s
— Chris Bascombe (@_ChrisBascombe) September 21, 2023
05:07 PM BST
Klopp the spoofer
Fair play to Klopp for some world class bluffing in his pre-match press conference when he knocked down the idea of ‘fringe’ players being given their chance. To be fair, there were always strong indications Ben Doak would make his first European start while Ryan Gravenberch and Wataru Endo need this chance to build their sharpness. The inclusion of Caoimhin Kelleher and Kostas Tsimikas – capable as they have proven in domestic cups – speaks rather more to where the Europa League sits in Klopp’s priorities.
04:52 PM BST
Your teams in black and white
LASK Lawal; Ziereis, Andrade, Luckeneder; Flecker, Jovicic, Horvath, Renner; Ljubicic, Zulj, Havel.
Substitutes Bello, Taloverov, Kone, Balic, Usor, Ljubic, Stojkovic, Mustapha, Ba, Goiginger, Siebenhandl, Darboe.
Liverpool Kelleher; Bajcetic, Van Dijk, Konate, Tsimikas; Elliott, Gravenberch, Endo; Doak, Nunez, Diaz.
Substitutes Alisson, Jaros, Gomez, Szoboszlai, Mac Allister, Salah, Jones, Gakpo, Jota, Robertson, Matip, Quansah.
Referee Marco Di Bello (Italy)
04:41 PM BST
Ben Doak starts for Liverpool
Read all about him:
— Chris Bascombe (@_ChrisBascombe) September 21, 2023
Ben Doak’s agent, Jackie McNamara, admits to a miscalculation when making a bold claim about Liverpool and Scotland’s exciting young winger.
“I said when he signed for Liverpool he would be in the first team within a year,” says McNamara.
“I was wrong. He did it within four months, and it only took that long because he had a few injuries.”
04:34 PM BST
After all that ... Klopp makes 11 changes
The subs are the starting XI vs Wolves plus third keeper Vítezslav Jaros.
04:09 PM BST
Good afternoon and welcome to live coverage of Liverpool’s return to the Europa League for the first time since they were beaten by Sevilla (natch) in the 2016 final. That was Jürgen Klopp’s first, partial season at Anfield and far from sulking the 2018 Champions League-winning manager and three-times runner-up (once with Dortmund) is savouring this competition and targeting winning it. No trophy snobbery here, which is refreshing to hear.
“I think we all have to make sure that we all respect the competition in the right manner, that we respect the opponents in the right manner,” he said at his press conference last night. “I would love to go to the final, obviously, but I have no clue if we can reach that because there will be a lot of fantastic football teams in between us and that target, so we have to make sure we perform.” To that end, he insists, he does not envisage this as the perfect opportunity to blood youngsters. “We have real talent there, but it is not experimental. I think if we don’t get hit by an injury crisis then we should have enough players to field Thursday and Sunday a top team, and that’s pretty much the idea.” Only Trent Alexander-Arnold and Thiago of their established players have been left at home to continue their rehab but will no doubt make their European bows for the season in later group games against Union Saint-Gilloise and Toulouse.
Once they had sloughed off the fatigue of flying back from international duty in their early match against Wolves on Saturday, Liverpool rolled the home side over in the second half, striking with clinical cruelty, the very opposite of Wanderers’ first-half profligacy. They were similarly clinical in their comeback victory over Newcastle and were surgically devastating against a very good Villa side before the international break. Five days on from their last game, they should be in fine fettle.
As for LASK, who finished third in last year’s Bundesliga and are in the same place after seven games of the current Austrian league season, Bronko Jovcic’s second-half goal in the away leg secured Die Laskler a 3-2 aggregate victory over Zrinjski Mostar in the play-off round. Didi Kühbauer, their head coach last season, was dismissed in the summer after a disagreement over recruitment. The proceeds from the sale of the Japan winger Keito Nakamura to Reims for £10 million have not been reinvested in transfer fees and they line up this evening with half a dozen Bosman signings hoping, as ever, to punch above their weight.