Arsenal target Europa League boost as confident Spurs travel to Belgium

Arsenal’s Gabriel in action during the English Premier League match against Leicester City at Emirates Stadium in London on Sunday. (AP)
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Updated 28 October 2020

Arsenal target Europa League boost as confident Spurs travel to Belgium

  • Gunners host Dundalk in their Group B fixture following a come-from-behind victory in Austria

PARIS: English rivals Arsenal and Tottenham are aiming to build on winning starts in the Europa League on Thursday while Zlatan Ibrahimovic will look to transfer his incredible Serie A form to the continental stage.
Smarting from a 1-0 loss at home to Leicester at the weekend, the Gunners host Irish side Dundalk in their second Group B fixture following a come-from-behind victory in Austria in their opening match.

Dundalk are just the third Irish representative to reach the group stage, having matched their achievement in 2016/17 and that of Shamrock Rovers in 2011/12.

They lost 2-1 at home to Norwegians Molde in their first game, and their Italian coach Filippo Giovagnoli is acutely aware the odds are stacked against the club from County Louth on Ireland's east coast.

"Arsenal have better players, better coaches and better everything than us, but this is the challenge. We need to play with a lot of heart, run a lot and be a little crazy and brave, but we're going to try," said Giovagnoli.

Tottenham's solid start in the Premier League has stirred up talk they could potentially end a long title drought, with no team yet to truly assert themselves after a truncated pre-season.

"We know with the team we have got and the players we have got we can do something special," captain Harry Kane, who is two goals shy of 200 for Spurs, told the BBC after Monday's 1-0 win at Burnley.

Jose Mourinho's side head to Belgium to play Antwerp this week after easing past Austrian outfit LASK Linz 3-0 in their Group J opener.

Leicester, the third English club in the competition, travel to AEK Athens as they too chase a second straight victory in Group J.

Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers are at home to Lech Poznan in Group D. Steven Gerrard's men are unbeaten this term and have won their last seven games.

Celtic, who are targeting a record 10th successive Scottish title, lost ground to Rangers at the weekend and have work to do in Group H after they were beaten 3-1 by Milan.

The task won't get any easier with a visit to Lille, who are level on points with Paris Saint-Germain in France and the only unbeaten team left in Ligue 1.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored seven times in five games this season despite missing a handful of matches after testing positive for coronavirus.

The 39-year-old former Sweden international netted twice for the third time in a row in Serie A as Milan drew 3-3 with Roma on Monday.

Ibrahimovic would become the second-oldest scorer in Europa League history if he hits the target against Sparta Prague.

Molde's Daniel Hestad holds the record, scoring against Celtic in November 2015 aged 40 years and 98 days.

Real Sociedad host Napoli as two famous European names do battle for the first time in Group F.


Liverpool frustrated by VAR as Brighton snatch late equalizer

Updated 29 November 2020

Liverpool frustrated by VAR as Brighton snatch late equalizer

  • Jurgen Klopp's side suffer late blow as Pascal Gross coolly converts late penalty

BRIGHTON: Jurgen Klopp launched into a furious tirade about Liverpool’s fixture schedule after Pascal Gross’s controversial late penalty rescued a dramatic 1-1 draw for Brighton at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.

Klopp’s side took the lead through Diogo Jota’s second half strike after Brighton’s Neal Maupay had missed a penalty in the first half.

But Liverpool were stunned in stoppage time when Andrew Robertson’s challenge on Danny Welbeck was ruled a penalty after Stuart Attwell used VAR to overturn his initial decision.

Gross converted from the spot, leaving Klopp sarcastically applauding the officials at the end of a disappointing week for Liverpool after their shock Champions League defeat at home to Atalanta.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson claimed Welbeck told him it was not a penalty, but Klopp would not take the bait when asked if he disagreed with the decision.

“You try to create again, on my cost, a headline, because that’s how it is. If I say now it was not ... the ref whistled it,” Klopp said in a fractious exchange with a BT Sport interviewer.

“Don’t look like this, you try, always, all the time. Today I say it was a penalty, you are not happy with that answer, so keep your answers to yourself.”

Liverpool went back to the top of the table as a result of their draw, but the champions are just one point ahead of previous leaders Tottenham.

Tottenham would regain pole position if they avoid defeat at Chelsea on Sunday, while the Blues will go top if they win the London derby.

It was one of those days for Liverpool, who also saw goals correctly disallowed by VAR for offside against Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

There was more bad news for injury-ravaged Liverpool as James Milner was forced off in the second half.

Milner’s injury provoked Klopp’s rant during his post-match interview as he repeated his recent complaints about Liverpool featuring in the early Saturday match after playing in the Champions League just three days earlier.

Asked if Milner had a hamstring problem, Klopp took aim at television schedulers and Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder, who has criticized his counterpart over his desire to allow five substitutions instead of the current three.

“Yeah, congratulations. You work for them yeah? Hamstring, surprise, and Brighton had injuries but ask Chris Wilder how we can avoid that,” Klopp said.

“I don’t know how often I have to say it, you picked the 12:30, not you personally, but you did it, us on 12:30, between now and December and New Year, one more Wednesday.

“I’ve not had a go at the broadcaster, I just say how it is. After Wednesday, Saturday 12:30 is really dangerous for the players.

“When we had a talk between managers, a week ago, it was 55, if not 60 (percent) for five subs. Since then nothing happened.

“Chris Wilder or whoever says constantly that I am selfish. I think all the things that shows is that he’s selfish.

“I was in a similar situation when I worked at Mainz and it was all about staying in the league, but they (Sheffield United) have three subs and one point if I am right.”

It was a tough day for Klopp, who saw Aaron Connolly tripped by Neco Williams in the 20th minute.

Maupay stepped up to take the spot kick, but his side-foot effort went wide despite Alisson Becker diving the wrong way.

In the 60th minute, Robertson found Salah and his pass teed up Jota to drill into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

Liverpool were seconds away from three points when Robertson went to clear in his own area as Welbeck closed in.

Robertson’s foot made contact with Welbeck, but there were few appeals from Brighton before Attwell awarded a contentious penalty after consulting the pitchside monitor.

With Maupay off the pitch, Gross took this one and fired down the middle to salvage an unexpected point.