LONDON: Liverpool advanced to the round of 16 of the Europa League with a game to spare after Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo scored early to set the tone in a 4-0 victory over Austria’s LASK on Thursday.
Diaz headed in a cross from Joe Gomez for the opener in the 12th before Gakpo tapped in Mohamed Salah’s pass three minutes later at Anfield. Salah made it 3-0 early in the second half in what was his 199th goal for the Reds. Gakpo added his second in stoppage time.
Liverpool are four points clear atop Group E with 12 points. Toulouse in second on eight after a 0-0 draw with Union Saint-Gilloise.
Leverkusen remained the only team with a perfect record after five games. Victor Boniface and substitute Patrik Schick contributed a goal apiece for a 2-0 victory at Hacken in Group H and a place in the round of 16.
Tomas Soucek struck late again to help West Ham beat TSC Backa Topola 1-0 and advance to the knockout stage.
The midfielder met Maxwel Cornet’s cross at the far post to volley home the winner in the 89th minute in Serbia.
Soucek, who has scored in five straight games, had snatched a 2-1 victory for West Ham against Burnley with a stoppage-time winner Saturday in the Premier League.
West Ham are tied atop Group A with Germany’s Freiburg, who routed Olympiacos 5-0. Michael Gregoritsch had a hat trick by the 36th minute. Kiliann Sildillia and Ritsu Doan also socred. The winners both have 12 points.
The Hammers need only a point against Freiburg on Dec. 14 in London to win the group and avoid a two-legged playoff in February.
Brighton advanced from Group B after Joao Pedro converted from the spot for a 1-0 win over 10-man AEK in Athens.
Pedro was fouled in the box before sending goalkeeper Cican Stankovic the wrong way for his fifth goal of the campaign. The hosts lost midfielder Mijat Gaćinović to a second yellow card in the 65th minute.
Marseille forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s hat trick included a stunning overhead kick and two penalties — one in stoppage time — in a 4-3 win over 10-man Ajax to lead to Group B with 11 points. Brighton trail by one. AEK remain on four points in third, Ajax have two.
The eight group winners in Europe’s second-tier competition earn a direct place in the last 16 of the competition whereas finishing in second only gets a team a playoff against the clubs who drop into the Europa League as third-place finishers in Champions League groups.
Atalanta advanced directly to the round of 16 despite 1-1 draw at home with Sporting Lisbon. Sporting substitute Marcus answered Gianluca Scamacca’s opening goal. Atalanta won Group D with 11 points. Sporting are second with eight.
Roma’s 1-1 draw at Servette in Geneva allowed Slavia Prague to settle atop Group G following a 3-2 win at Sheriff in Tiraspol. Roma trails the Czech team by two points with a game remaining.
In Group C, Lukas Haraslin’s second-half curling shot from the edge of the area led Sparta past Real Betis 1-0 in Prague to keep the Czech team’s home for a top-two finish alive.
Maccabi Haifa remained winless in last place in Group F after a 3-0 loss to Rennes in a game played at the Puskas Arena in Budapest because Israel are not allowed to host UEFA-sanctioned matches due to the war with Hamas.
Also in the group, 41-year-old goalkeeper Pepe Reina helped Villarreal beat Panathinaikos 3-2 to climb to second on an all-time list of appearances in European competition with his 189. Only Cristiano Ronaldo played more, 197.
EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE
Greece’s PAOK became another team to join Viktoria Plzen in the round of 16 as a winner of Group G with a 2-1 away win at Eintracht Frankfurt.
The Czechs won 1-0 at Ballkani to make it five wins from five in Group C.
Aston Villa moved to the top of Group E after a 2-1 win over Legia Warsaw. Moussa Diaby and Alex Moreno had a goal each at Villa Park with Ernest Muçi netting for the visitors. Villa needed to win by two or more goals to clinch the top spot in the group.
Club Brugge thumped Besiktas 5-0 in Turkiye to lead Group D with 13 points. Bodo/Glimt trails by three after a 5-2 win over Lugano.
A first-place finish earns a direct spot in the last 16, while finishing in second takes clubs into a playoff with third-place finishers in the Europa League.