News Boniface ‘close’ to return, says Leverkusen coach Alonso

Liverpool rout Sparta to reach Europa League quarterfinals. Late goals propel Leverkusen

LONDON: Mohamed Salah scored one goal and set up three to help Liverpool demolish Sparta Prague 6-1 and march into the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday.

After winning 5-1 the opening leg of their last 16 tie in Prague, Liverpool scored four in the opening 14 minutes at Anfield to advance on a massive 11-2 aggregate score.

Sparta had no answer to Liverpool’s high pressure.

Salah seized the ball on the right of the area before shooting inside the far post over Sparta goalkeeper Peter Vindahl for his 20th goal of the season, becoming the first Liverpool player to score at least 20 goals in seven straight seasons.

Salah, who injured his hamstring with Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations in January, started after having been used as a substitute in both the first leg in Prague and a 1-1 draw with Manchester City on Sunday.

Darwin Nunez opened the rout with a clinical low finish seven minutes into the game after scoring two in Prague.

A minute later, Salah won the ball on the edge of the box to feed 19-year-old Bobby Clark to score his first senior goal for Liverpool to jump 2-0 up.

Salah then scored before finding Cody Gakpo with a cross to make it 4-0.

Dominik Szoboszlai made it 5-1 in the second half with a deflected shot before Gakpo added his second.

Veljko Birmancevic had the lone goal for Sparta.

In Germany, Patrik Schick came off the bench against 10-man Qarabag to score two goals in stoppage time to complete Leverkusen’s 3-2 comeback win and secure a quarterfinal spot for the Bundesliga leader.

In a dramatic second half, Abdellah Zoubir and Juninho gave the visitors a 2-0 advantage before Jeremie Frimpong started the comeback.

Leverkusen made the quarters 5-4 on aggregate to extend their unbeaten streak to 37 games across all competitions this season — a German record.

Qarabag’s Elvin Jafarguliyev received a red card in the 62nd when his team was leading 1-0.

AC Milan cruised past 10-man Slavia Prague 3-1 to reach the quarterfinals. Milan advanced 7-3 on aggregate after winning the first leg of the last 16 tie 4-2 at San Siro a week ago.

The seven-time European champions have never won the second-tier Europa League or its predecessor, the UEFA Cup.

The competition gives the Italian powerhouse their only realistic chance to win a trophy this season after they were eliminated from the Italian Cup and currently trails Serie A leader Inter Milan by 16 points.

Christian Pulisic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Rafael Leão put the result in the second leg beyond doubt with first-half goals in Prague.

Pulisic netted from 10 meters with a low shot to open the scoring in the 33rd minute and Loftus-Cheek tapped in the second into an empty net off a precise cross from Theo Hernández before Leão curled a right-footed drive from outside the area into the top right corner in first-half stoppage time.

Slavia got a consolation goal from substitute Matěj Jurasek.

Pulisic now has 11 goals in 38 appearances across all competitions in the US international’s first campaign with the Rossoneri to match his most productive season — the 2019-20 campaign at Chelsea.

Slavia’s early pressure lost steam after captain Tomas Holes received a straight red card in the 20th minute for fouling his counterpart Davide Calabria.

Milan first-choice goalkeeper Mike Maignan was injured early and was replaced by Marco Sportiello.

West Ham made the last eight by routing Freiburg 5-0 at London Stadium.

The Hammers reversed the first leg 1-0 defeat with the first-half goals from Lucas Paqueta and Jarrod Bowen.

Paqueta netted from close range after Tomáš Soucek headed to him from a corner less than 10 minutes into the game. Bowen doubled the advantage in the 32nd.

Aaron Cresswell made it 3-0 early in the second half before Mohammed Kudus completed the rout with two late goals.

West Ham, last year’s Europa Conference League champion, have won 11 straight home games in European competitions in the last two seasons.

Marseille nearly blew a 4-0 lead from the first leg against Villarreal, who scored three goals Thursday before Jonathan Clauss netted in stoppage-time for the French visitors to seal a 5-3 aggregate victory despite a 3-1 loss on the evening. Etienne Capoue, Alexander Sorloth and Yerson Mosquera scored to hand Marseille their first defeat since coach Jean-Louis Gasset took charge after five wins.

Danny Welbeck netted to lift Brighton 1-0 past Roma but that was not enough to prevent the end of the debut season for the Seagulls in Europe.

Roma made the next round 4-1 on aggregate.

Ademola Lookman and Gianluca Scamacca scored early in the second half to rally Atalanta to a 2-1 win over Sporting and into the the quarterfinals. Pedro Goncalves scored for the visitors. Atalanta advanced 3-2 on aggregate.

Benfica advanced after a 1-0 win over Rangers at Ibrox Stadium in Glagow. Rafa Silva scored in the 66th minute and the Lisbon team held on after the sides drew 2-2 last week.

The quarterfinals draw is scheduled for Friday.

Europa Conference League

In the third-tier competition, Maccabi Haifa held Fiorentina 1-1 but the Italian team — last year’s runner-up — advanced to the quarterfinals on a 5-4 aggregate score.

Viktoria Plzen prevailed 3-1 on penalties over Servette after they played both legs and extra time without scoring a goal.

Greece’s PAOK recovered from a 2-0 loss at Dinamo Zagreb in the opening leg with a 5-1 home win to advance.

Fenerbahce advanced despite a 1-0 home loss to Union Saint-Gilloise after taking 3-0 the first leg.

Aston Villa moved to the next phase after a 4-0 home victory over Ajax following their 0-0 draw in Amsterdam. Lille progressed 4-1 on aggregate after drawing Sturm Graz 1-1 at home. Club Brugge advanced with a 3-0 home win over Molde and 4-2 overall. Olympiacos scored twice in extra time to win 6-1 away and eliminate Maccabi Tel Aviv 7-5 on aggregate.

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