LASK 1-3 Liverpool: Nunez and Diaz rescue Liverpool in victory over LASK
Getty: Christian Hofer

Liverpool’s return to Europa League football was far from serene but they again demonstrated their ability to come from behind to claim victory over LASK Linz in this Group E opener.

In northern Austria, Jurgen Klopp watched his much-changed side go behind for the fourth time in five matches as Florian Flecker opened the scoring for the home team with a fizzing shot in the first half.

But second-half goals courtesy of Darwin Nunez from the penalty spot, Luis Diaz and substitute Mo Salah sealed another come-from-behind win and Klopp’s 50th European victory as  Liverpool manager.

Story of the game

On the eve of Liverpool’s first Europa League appearance since losing the 2016 final to Sevilla in Klopp’s first season, the manager made it clear that his team are now better prepared for the rigours of the competition and are here to simply “give opportunities”.

That said, Klopp did rotate his team and made 11 changes to the side that won at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Caoimhin Kelleher, Stefan Bajcetic and Harvey Elliott were among the starters while there were also full debuts for promising winger Ben Doak and new signing Ryan Gravenberch.

The newly-rebuilt Raiffeisen Arena, which only opened in February, was full to its 19,000 capacity and the home crowd were in boisterous mood. LASK, third in the Austrian Bundesliga and arriving with three consecutive wins, certainly served up a more than purposeful start from which they gained encouragement.

Getty: Reinhard Eisenbauer
Getty: Reinhard Eisenbauer

With only 13 minutes on the clock, Robert Zulj, the LASK captain, got a shot away that deflected off Virgil van Dijk’s boot over the crossbar. The corner sailed over everyone but was met by Flecker on the edge of the area. A touch and then a rifled shot across Kelleher and into the far corner was some way for the home team to go ahead.

Seeing his side go behind is becoming a familiar sight for Klopp and the rest of the first half will hardly have lightened his mood. The hosts remained a threat on the counter, with Van Dijk needing to stride across and deny Marin Ljubicic when the LASK midfielder easily shrugged off Ibrahima Konate.

Liverpool were sloppy in possession but Nunez did have two good headed chances. The forward sent one over the crossbar having being picked out by Elliott and then saw another clawed off the goalline by Tobias Okiki Lawal at the far post after Van Dijk sent Kostas Tsimikas’ corner back across goal.

Klopp resisted the urge to make any substitutions at half time but his team were much improved after the break anyhow.

They mustered their best passing move of the game on 55 minutes with Stefan Bajcetic cutting the ball back for Diaz and although the Colombian made a hash of his effort, he was caught by Philipp Ziereis and the referee pointed to the spot. Nunez dispatched the penalty to level the scores.

Getty: Andy Powell
Getty: Andy Powell

Klopp then made a triple change, sending on reinforcements, and although Kelleher was back in action at the other end, saving from Elias Havel, Liverpool were the likelier to score the next goal. That duly arrived in the 63rd minute.

Nunez used his strength to hold up the ball and Elliott displayed good vision to thread a pass to release Gravenberch. The debutant took the ball in his stride and whipped in a first-time cross from the right. Diaz, arriving into the six-yard box, caressed the ball into the LASK goal.

Gravenberch was forced off with an injury shortly after his assist but his replacement made sure of the victory on 88 minutes. It was shoddy defending from a quickly-tiring LASK defence that allowed Nunez to steal possession and feed Salah, who squeezed between two defenders before slotting the ball through the ‘keepers’ legs.

Player of the game: Luis Diaz

Scored Liverpool's crucial second goal with a first-time finish and was the visitors' most lively player during their second-half fightback.