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 crucial away goal — on the stroke of halftime by dribbling into the box and applying a deft chipped finish from an acute angle.
"Phil had a genius moment, wonderful," Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said, "and it decided the game."
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United’s only possible route to next season’s Champions League 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. Sunday’s derby against Manchester City, which is in fourth place and four points ahead of United, takes on even greater significance for United and its under-pressure manager Louis van Gaal.
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, while Athletic Bilbao lost to Valencia 2-1 to tie the aggregate score at 2-2 but advanced on away goals from the all-Spanish match. Other teams to go through to Friday’s draw for the quarterfinals were Villarreal, Shakhtar Donetsk and Braga.
Van Gaal’s future is on even more shaky ground with a potential route to the Champions League closed off, but progress in the Europa League was always in doubt after the first leg last week that Liverpool dominated and won 2-0 at Anfield. It meant United had to come out and attack at Old Trafford, leaving the home side susceptible to counterattacks from Liverpool’s lively forwards.
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 an extravagant 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, after he was tripped by Nathaniel Clyne.
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 before stewards intervened.
"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 champion scored three goals, first through Adil Rami before two in as many minutes by Kevin Gameiro.
The Spanish club is seeking its fifth UEFA Cup/Europa League title in 11 years and could be back at Basel’s stadium for the final in May.
Aubameyang took his tally for the season to 35 goals with a strike in each half to inspire Dortmund to its first win on English soil. Tottenham replied through Son Heung-min but can focus entirely on winning the Premier League for the first time since 1961. Spurs are second in the Premier League, five points behind Leicester.
Valencia led the second leg 2-0 and was on its way through before Aritz Aduriz scored a 76th-minute goal — following Raul Garcia’s exquisite flick — that proved to be the clinching away goal.
Valencia coach Gary Neville was sent to the stands for protesting against an apparent handball in the buildup to Aduriz’s goal.