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VAR controversy not Liverpool's biggest issue - Europa League and Conference League hits and misses

Plus: Ansu Fati shines in historic Brighton win; James Ward-Prowse shows his worth once more, after being snubbed by England again; Rangers begin to click under new manager Phillipe Clement

VAR controversy not Klopp's real frustration

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Jurgen Klopp's press conference following the 3-2 defeat in Toulouse was interrupted by noisy fans which caused the Liverpool manager to question why the press conference was being hosted there

Liverpool were controversially denied a point against Toulouse with Jarell Quansah's stoppage-time equaliser disallowed after VAR adjudged Alexis Mac Allister to have handled in the build-up.

But in truth, the controversy obscured a poor display from the Reds - and Jurgen Klopp admitted as much after.

"Actually I am a bit more concerned about (the fact that) I would have loved us to have played better. That's my main issue tonight.

"The problem is in a football game you have to make the decisive things in the right moment to do them right."

A decisive moment was Toulouse's opener which came from Kostas Tsimikas' mistake and the left-back paid the price for that as he was hooked at half-time by Klopp.

After starting as a substitute in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Luton, the Greece international failed in his audition to earn a starting spot against Brentford on Sunday - and so did Wataru Endo.

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Liverpool were denied a late equaliser in their Europa League game in Toulouse after VAR intervened to rule out for a handball from Alexis Mac Allister

The Japan international joined Tsimikas on the bench for the second half as he avoided receiving two yellows in a tepid first-half performance at the base of midfield.

The pair's underwhelming displays meant Klopp was forced to bring on Mohamed Salah, Dominik Szoboszlai and Trent Alexander-Arnold, with promising teenager Ben Doak taken off despite a decent showing.

But their introductions were not enough as Liverpool missed out on qualification to the knockout stages as group winners.

Instead, defeat in France now means if Toulouse win their next game at home against Union Saint-Gilloise then top spot will go down to the final round.

The consequences of that are that Klopp is unlikely to be able to rest his star players for Liverpool's last two group matches - and that will frustrate him more than the VAR decision.
Declan Olley

Fati sums up Brighton's danger in Amsterdam

When Brighton signed Ansu Fati on a season-long loan from Barcelona, it raised eyebrows across the football landscape. Seen as something of a coup, Roberto De Zerbi said the Spain international needed to start his enjoying his football again before getting back to the level he was at the start of his Barcelona career.

Well now, the young forward is starting to have a party. He showed a real sharpness to score Brighton's opener with a low finish into the corner. Not finished there, he set up Simon Adingra with perfect decision making for the second.

Ansu Fati celebrates Brighton's victory at Ajax
Image: Ansu Fati celebrates Brighton's victory at Ajax

Fati was one element of Brighton building dangerous counter-attacks. He combined well with Joao Pedro who celebrated his first call-up to the senior Brazil squad with a performance of panache and quick feet. Throw Simon Adingra into the mix and Ajax struggled to cope with the movement of the trio.

What made Brighton's victory even more special was the adversity they had to overcome. They lost no less than three players due to injury in the 90 minutes. James Milner, captain Lewis Dunk and Pervis Estupinan.

The Ecuador international was only just returning from injury but lasted less than 15 minutes after coming on as a substitute. De Zerbi played down the significance of the injuries in his post-match presser but the trio must be doubts for Sunday's Premier League game against Sheffield United.

Another bright spot for Brighton was the performance of centre-back Jan Paul van Hecke. Solid and aggressive throughout and up against a tricky opponent in Bryan Brobbey, van Hecke never put a foot wrong. Surely a senior cap for Netherlands beckons.

Given the European pedigree of Ajax, this result will go down as one of the best in Brighton's 122-year history. Roberto De Zerbi's side have given themselves a decent chance of progressing from a tough group.
Elliot Cook

How long can Southgate snub JWP?

West Ham's James Ward-Prowse, centre, reacts after missing a chance during the Europa League Group A soccer match between West Ham United and Olympiacos at the London stadium in London, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Image: West Ham's James Ward-Prowse has been overlooked by Gareth Southgate's latest England selection

James Ward-Prowse once again delivered a timely reminder to Gareth Southgate of his talent just hours after another England snub.

The West Ham midfielder unlocked the Olympiakos defence with a superb pass that allowed Lucas Paqueta to net a crucial winner in their Europa League Group A fixture.

West Ham's Lucas Paqueta, centre, scores the opening goal past Olympiacos' goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis during the Europa League Group A soccer match between West Ham United and Olympiacos at the London stadium in London, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Image: West Ham's Lucas Paqueta, centre, scores the opening goal past Olympiacos' goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis

The 29-year-old ended a run of six games without a goal contribution, which would have added weight to Southgate's omission of him, although it was his seventh assist in all competitions. No other Premier League player has more.

Ward-Prowse also created seven chances against Olympiakos, the joint-most of any player in a single game across major European competitions this season.

The set-piece specialist has also created 41 chances across all competitions this term, the joint most of any Premier League player with Bruno Fernandes.

Ward-Prowse believes he is his own harshest critic but even he says he's "ticking all the boxes" for an England call-up. The wait goes on.
David Richardson

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David Moyes claims West Ham are managing to impress in their hardest ever European group after beating Olympiakos 1-0 at the London Stadium in the Europa League.

Luiz shows class to help Villa beat AZ

Diego Carlos is congratulated on Aston Villa's first goal against AZ Alkmaar
Image: Aston Villa were made to work for victory by AZ Alkmaar

Douglas Luiz needed a rest. He has started every Premier League game this season for Aston Villa and was even in the starting line-up for their Carabao Cup tie. He has come on as a substitute in the three games that he has not started - and he made the difference here.

Villa's 2-1 victory over AZ Alkmaar was not convincing but it was important. Progression is now all but assured. It needed Ollie Watkins to score the winner in the 81st minute and it needed Luiz to provide the beautiful assist that broke AZ's defensive line.

It is the fewest minutes that he has played in any game for Villa this season but he had enough time to make a decisive impact. His run of scoring in six consecutive Premier League home games came to an end against Luton. This assist showcased his creative side.

Youri Tielemans deputised and certainly had his moments, playing a nice pass to Lucas Digne in the move that won the corner from which Villa equalised. But with Boubacar Kamara established as the man to break things up, Luiz continues to look the superior option.
Adam Bate

Rangers are clicking under Clement

Danilo became only the third South American to score a goal for Rangers in major European competition
Image: Danilo scored Rangers' opener against Sparta Prague - his fourth Europa League goal

Philippe Clement was particularly complimentary of his side following a crucial 2-1 win over Sparta Prague. "The best we've played," he said. If the pressure was on, you certainly couldn't tell.

The Gers needed victory to retain a hope of progression (or to keep their fate in their own hands, at least) and they delivered with a confidence and swagger unbeknown to the era that preceded Clement's October arrival.

Michael Beale's Rangers didn't play this brand of football. The passes are slicker, the belief greater, and above all, six games in, results show the Gers to be unbeaten under their new Belgian boss. Even the Ibrox love has returned.

Rangers have won their first two home matches of a major European campaign for the first time since 2019-20 - it stands them in good stead for Group C progression. But most importantly, the trust and optimism are both back, as Clement's reign begins with some impressive early momentum.
Laura Hunter

Too little, too late for Aberdeen

Aberdeen led through Duk but were pegged back
Image: Aberdeen led through Duk but were pegged back

Not since a 4-0 home win over Copenhagen in December 2007 have Aberdeen tasted victory in the group stages of a European competition. Back then, that victory swept them into the last 32 of the UEFA Cup under Jimmy Calderwood. Experiencing the same elation feels a long way off.

Manager Barry Robson was "gutted but so proud" after his side's Europa Conference League qualification hopes ended on Thursday.

Aberdeen's 2-2 draw against PAOK in Greece demonstrated they can compete at this level, and yet with two games remaining, the Scottish Premiership outfit are now only playing for pride.

Eintracht Frankfurt sealed their place in the knockout stages with the Greek side joining them after inflicting a damaging defeat on the Dons on matchday three.

Robson told RedTV after the game in Thessaloniki: "It's a difficult one to take. You can see how good a side they are - they beat Olympiacos 4-2 at the weekend, they beat Eintracht Frankfurt here.

"We went toe to toe with them and gave them a real go and we have drawn 2-2. The home game we were 2-0 up after 78 minutes. I think Eintracht Frankfurt away was one of our best performances you will see in Europe for a long, long time."

Aberdeen will be better for the experience, but the club's 16-year wait for a group-stage win in Europe goes on.
Ben Grounds

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