Darwin Nunez bags beautiful brace as Liverpool cruise; West Ham fall, Brighton smashed, Aston Villa held

Thursday's Europa League and Conference League action featured four Premier League teams, and the results were quite mixed.

Aston Villa rested several key pieces in Holland and will return to Villa Park following a scoreless Conference League last 16 first leg versus Ajax.

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Liverpool got a big Europa League first leg win in Czechia despite resting Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk for this weekend's tilt with Manchester City, but Brighton were smashed by Roma in the Italian capital and have a ton of work to done at the Amex Stadium for the second leg.

All of the games were early kickoffs except for West Ham's Europa League first leg at Freiburg, which did not leave the club in a great place heading back to London.

Ajax, Aston Villa stage scoreless first leg in Amsterdam

There were as many red cards as shots on target in Holland.

Villa's Ezri Konsa was sent off in the 83rd minute for fouling Chuba Akpom, a second yellow card for the defender, and Ajax's Tristan Gooijer saw his second yellow a minute later when he fouled Nicolo Zaniolo.

The game produced less than a full xG between the two teams.

Roma’s Dybala, Lukaku lead 4-0 win over visiting Brighton (video)

Roberto De Zerbi's return to Italy did not go as planned as Roma scored twice in each half to build a likely insurmountable lead after 90 minutes.

Stephan El Sharaawy set up two goals and Romelu Lukaku, Paulo Dybala, Bryan Cristante, and Gianluca Mancini all scored as Brighton had possession in Rome but not much else.

And you know it's not a good day for the Seagulls when even Lewis Dunk is making errors.

Brighton had nearly 60 percent of the ball but was out-attempted 14-11 and allowed seven of those shots on target. Roma rang up 2.55 xG while allowing just 0.84 to the Seagulls.

West Ham can’t find final ball at Freiburg, cursed by off-moment

This was an even tussle between two tough teams, but West Ham switched off at the wrong time and now go back to London down 1-0 to Freiburg.

The Bundesliga veterans had 58% of the ball and edged expected goals but shot attempts and shots on target were even at 14 and 4.

But Hungarian star Rolland Sallai got the ball after Vladimir Coufal was given no help by his midfield on the right flank, most of whom were deep in their 18, and Austrian sub Michael Gregoritsch walked between the Irons defenders to tap home for the lone goal of the game.

Liverpool smash Sparta Prague behind red-hot Darwin Nunez

An early Alexis Mac Allister penalty would've given Jurgen Klopp happiness as he hoped to not have to tax his still-thin roster with a huge game against Manchester City coming up this weekend.

Darwin Nunez made that idea academic with a brace before halftime and Luis Diaz answered the hosts' only goal to make this a cruise and allow Klopp to consider how easy he can take the second leg at Anfield even before sub Dominik Szoboszlai made it 5-1 in stoppage time.

Nunez has been on fire since Boxing Day, scoring six goals and adding two assists in eight Premier League matches, chipping in another goal during FA Cup play, and posting a pair of assists in the League Cup semifinals.

All told, the Uruguayan 24-year-old has nine goals and four assists in his last 13 games. Not bad.

Klopp played Virgil van Dijk for the final 40 minutes, Dominik Szoboszlai a minute less than that, and put Mohamed Salah into the game with 16 minutes to play in Czechia. Salah had a goal taken off the board after VAR review, and Harvey Elliott rang up two assists in the win.