MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – A stunning solo goal by Philippe Coutinho helped Liverpool eliminate great rival Manchester United from the Europa League, while titleholder Sevilla and tournament favorite Borussia Dortmund also reached the quarterfinals with ease on Thursday.
Liverpool drew 1-1 with United at Old Trafford to seal a 3-1 aggregate victory, with Coutinho scoring the equalizer — and all-important away goal — on the stroke of halftime by dribbling into the box and applying an extravagant chip for his finish.
Sevilla — seeking a third straight Europa League title — beat Basel 3-0 to advance by the same score on aggregate, and the prolific Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored Dortmund’s goals in a 2-1 win at Tottenham for 5-1 overall.
Sparta Prague eliminated Lazio by winning 3-0 away in the round’s big upset. Athletic Bilbao knocked out Valencia on away goals in an all-Spanish match, and other teams to go through were Villarreal, Shakhtar Donetsk and Braga.
The draw for the quarterfinals takes place on Friday.
Man United’s only possible route to next season’s Champions League now rests solely through a top-four finish in the Premier League, which is currently looking unlikely with the team in sixth place with nine games left.
That leaves Louis van Gaal’s future on even more shaky ground, but progress in the Europa League was always in doubt after the first leg last week, when Liverpool dominated and won 2-0 at Anfield. It meant United had to come out and attack at Old Trafford, leaving the home side open for counter-attacks.
From one of those breaks, Coutinho collected the ball on the left wing, drifted past right back Guillermo Varela, closed in on goal and executed a deft chip that beat the stranded David de Gea at his near post.
It punctured an atmosphere that had gone up a notch inside Old Trafford when Anthony Martial gave United the lead from the penalty spot in the 31st after the France forward was tripped by Nathaniel Clyne.
“Phil had a genius moment, wonderful,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said, “and it decided the game.”
United never looked like scoring the three goals it needed in the second half, which finished amid troubling scenes in one of the stands as a small number of United and Liverpool fans threw punches at each other.
“We have played like Liverpool did in the home match against us,” van Gaal said, “. . . but they scored the away goal. That was the difference. In the second half, you try to raise the players out of disappointment, but you know and the fans know you need to score three goals.”
Sevilla’s passage was sealed after a 10-minute span in the first half during which the reigning two-time champions scored three goals.