Rangers’ European journey will continue into 2024 but a disconcerting 1-1 draw with Aris Limassol means a wait until the final Group C fixture to see if progress will be in the Europa League.

The Light Blues had suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to the Cypriot side on matchday two following the departure of boss Michael Beale and on a freezing evening in Govan they were in trouble again in the 28th minute when Shavy Babicka scored on the break.

Boss Philippe Clement replaced Todd Cantwell with Ross McCausland before the break and the young Northern Ireland attacker scored his first Gers goal early in the second half to level.

A poor first-half performance improved only marginally and although Clement remains unbeaten in nine games, there were boos at the end.

Rangers moved on to eight points, one behind Real Betis whom they play in the final Group C game in Spain next month, with Sparta Prague on seven and  Aris Limassol on four and there are permutations in terms of finishing in the top two but at least third place and a spot in the Europa Conference League is guaranteed.

Clement had some reshuffling to do for the visit of the group’s bottom side.

With Connor Goldson suspended and Leon Balogun not in the European squad, the Belgian had to change his centre-back pairing with Ben Davies and John Souttar coming in.

Attacking midfielder Sam Lammers came in for Tom Lawrence but he miskicked from 12 yards in the sixth minute as Rangers began to build some momentum.

However, in the 11th minute Gers keeper Jack Butland had to produce a fine save from a 25-yard thunderbolt from Aris left-back Caju, the home side surviving the corner.

Rangers struggled to click into gear and there was no surprise when they fell behind to the visiting side growing in belief.

After Cantwell had conceded possession in the Aris half, Aleksandr Kokorin’s long pass split Souttar and Davies and Gabon striker Babicka skipped past the latter and then rounded Butland before knocking the ball into the empty net.

As Ibrox continued to grumble in frustration, Kokorin hammered the ball over the bar from 12 yards before boos accompanied Clement’s 35th-minute substitution of Cantwell for 20-year-old winger McCausland, who signed a new deal earlier in the week.

The fans’ ire, though, was mostly directed at Lammers who was having a wretched game but there were more general boos at half-time.

However, three minutes after the restart McCausland had the stadium cheering when he took a pass from Danilo, who had taken advantage of a sloppy throw-in, and drilled the ball low into the net off the far post.

Rangers fans urged their side to inject pace into their game and they were happy to see Lawrence replace Lammers in the 57th minute, just before striker Danilo failed to control a pass from skipper James Tavernier inside the box.

In the 63rd minute, after Rangers broke with pace, McCausland had a shot blocked inside the Aris penalty area after playing an elongated one-two with Lawrence before a Danilo header tested Aris goalkeeper and captain Vana.

Rabbi Matondo took over from Abdallah Sima in the 79th minute but it never really looked like the winner would come and indeed Aris had a few forays in the final minutes, also to no avail.

The journey moves on to Seville but Rangers have to show much more than they did against a very ordinary Aris Limassol team.

Liverpool cruised into the Europa League knock-out stages with a match to spare as a 4-0 victory over LASK confirmed their place as group winners.

Early goals from Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo were enhanced by a second-half Mohamed Salah penalty – his 199th goal for the club – and an added-time strike by Gakpo as Toulouse’s draw with Union Saint-Gilloise means a dreaded round-of-32 play-off was avoided.

That mere fact alone will have delighted manager Jurgen Klopp, whose pre-match press conference had been littered with references to the intense December period ahead, but a club-record 12 points in the group stage shows how dominant the tournament favourites have been.

The Reds’ 100 percent home record was extended to 10 games and a third successive Anfield clean sheet for the first time since October 2022 means they have only conceded four times in front of their own fans while scoring 30.

In reality, that record was never in danger as the Austrians are the weakest side in the group and that frailty was exposed twice inside three minutes early on by a home side registering nine changes, with only Salah and left-back Kostas Tsimikas retained from the weekend draw at Manchester City.

A move which started on the left ended up on the right from where Joe Gomez crossed for Diaz to stoop and power home a twisting header.

The second goal came from the same flank as Salah, teed up by Diaz, picked out Gakpo at the far post for the simplest of close-range volleyed finishes.

Tsimikas smashed a fierce drive against the crossbar and the overwhelming confidence of the hosts was exemplified by Gomez, who has never scored in eight years at the club, drilling a 25-yard shot just wide.

Much of the half appeared to revolve in getting Salah to his double century as the team tried to pick him out at every opportunity, whether he be menacingly poised on the shoulder of the last defender or inside the penalty area.

Two chances went begging when his angled shot turned into more of a cross but still evaded Gakpo before he fired tamely at the goalkeeper.

Six minutes into the second half Salah finally found the net but he owed it all to Gakpo.

The Netherlands international’s short through-ball to Diaz missed his intended target but the Dutchman was alert enough to chase his own pass and somehow get there before goalkeeper Tobias Lawal, who brought him down.

Lawal showed a similar lack of reaction in watching Salah tuck the penalty into the corner of the net without even attempting a dive.

That was enough to put the result beyond doubt but the feeling was there were more goals to be had as Gakpo hit the base of a post from outside the area, although the Dutchman eventually got a deserved second in added time.

The arrival of Darwin Nunez, and to a lesser extent Trent Alexander-Arnold and Curtis Jones, livened up proceedings, with the former putting in one of his now typical all-action hit-and-miss performances.

It erred more towards the latter as, after Harvey Elliott’s deflected shot was repelled by the goalkeeper’s legs as he dived the other way, the Uruguay international had one effort diverted wide and then shot straight at Lawal from eight yards.

Marin Ljubcic blazed over the visitors’ best chance with only Caoimhin Kelleher to beat and the Liverpool goalkeeper, set for his longest run in the side due to Alisson Becker being sidelined for a fortnight with a hamstring injury, did not have anything to do until the last 20 minutes.

When he was called upon he was not flustered, coming out to smother Ibrahim Mustapha, repelling Moses Usor’s shot and producing a reaction stop from LASK’s top scorer Robert Zulj, but even Sunday’s shot-shy visitors Fulham – scorers of only 13 goals in as many games – will provide a sterner test.

Captain Lewis Dunk says Brighton are dreaming of Europa League glory after securing a spot in the knockout stages on a historic day for the club.

Albion guaranteed a top-two finish in Group B with a game to spare thanks to an unconvincing 1-0 victory away to 10-man AEK Athens.

Joao Pedro’s 55th-minute penalty proved the difference against the Greek champions as the Seagulls set aside a disjointed display to progress ahead of a final-round fixture at home to Marseille on December 14.

Defender Dunk is determined to finish in first place in the pool in order to advance directly to the last 16 and avoid a knockout round play-off against a team falling out of the Champions League.

“The next game, we’ve got to win, we’ve got to top the group,” he told Brighton’s website. “I think that’s massive, you miss a round out.

“That’s our next aim in this competition but who knows how far we can go?

“We want to win it and you’ve got to dream big to achieve it. We’re going to set our sights on reaching the final and winning it.”

Brighton, who are enjoying their maiden European adventure, were second best in the first half at AEK Arena and fortunate not to fall behind when Steven Zuber’s shot deflected off Dunk and struck a post.

The contest turned during a pivotal 10-minute second-half spell in which Pedro converted a VAR-awarded penalty after being fouled by AEK captain Damian Szymanski and Mijat Gacinovic was dismissed for a second booking.

Following back-to-back successes over four-time European champions Ajax, Albion jubilantly celebrated another famous win with the travelling fans.

England international Dunk, who made his senior debut when the Seagulls were a League One side, acknowledged the visitors were forced to dig deep.

“It’s massive,” the 32-year-old said of the result. “I think you can see in the celebration at the end what it means.

“It’s a historic day for the football club.

“We came into this tournament to qualify out of the group and we’ve done that tonight.

“It wasn’t the prettiest of our performances but sometimes you’ve got to win like that and it’s all credit to us.”

Pedro’s successful spot-kick was his fifth goal in the competition and backed up his match-winning brace as a substitute in Saturday’s 3-2 Premier League victory at Nottingham Forest.

Dunk, whose right shoulder was taped up at full-time, was sent off at the City Ground and will miss Sunday’s trip to Chelsea due to suspension.

“(I’m) just nursing a few injuries but you just get on with them,” he replied when asked about the strapping.

“Frustrating not to be out there (at Stamford Bridge), it’s my fault and I’ve got to deal with that myself.”

David Moyes wants West Ham to finish the job off and top their Europa League group.

Tomas Soucek struck late on yet again as the Hammers secured their passage into the knock-out stages with a 1-0 win against Backa Topola in Serbia.

Now they need to avoid defeat to Freiburg at the London Stadium in a fortnight to ensure they top Group A and avoid a two-legged play-off in February.

“We’re thrilled at West Ham that we’re going to play in Europe after Christmas time for the third season,” Hammers boss Moyes said at his post-match press conference.

“Even playing Freiburg in the last game to win the group is hugely important. But I’d have taken this at the start of the season, if you’d said we’ll finish second I’d have taken that.

“Freiburg are a good side and we are going to have to play well.”

Czech midfielder Soucek, who struck with an 89th-minute volley to settle a poor match, has now scored in his last five matches for club and country.

Soucek also hit the late goal which secured a 2-1 win at Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday.

“Tomas is in great form, not only for us but for his country as well,” added Moyes.

“Let’s continue. His first season he got 10 goals for us and it’s seven now so he has a chance to reach that figure again.

“We made a few changes, some with illness, we were always going to try some other players tonight to give them game time.”

“We scored two late goals on Saturday to beat Burnley and as a manager sometimes it’s good to win game late.”

Brighton secured a place in the knockout stages of the Europa League after Joao Pedro’s second-half penalty earned an unconvincing 1-0 victory away to 10-man AEK Athens.

In-form forward Pedro converted his fifth goal of the competition in the 55th minute to guarantee the Seagulls a top-two finish in Group B.

Albion were second best before the VAR-awarded spot-kick and fortunate not to fall behind in the closing stages of the first half when AEK forward Steven Zuber struck a post.

The lively hosts were forced to play the final 25 minutes a man down following Mijat Gacinovic’s dismissal for a second yellow card.

Roberto De Zerbi’s men will vie for first place in the pool – and automatic qualification for the last 16 – when Marseille visit the Amex Stadium in the final round of fixtures in two weeks’ time.

Brighton’s maiden European campaign was launched with an underwhelming 3-2 defeat to the Greek champions in September.

Yet the Premier League club arrived at the AEK Arena in control of their own destiny thanks to a battling comeback draw in Marseille and back-to-back wins over Ajax.

Head coach De Zerbi made four changes from Saturday’s 3-2 success at Nottingham Forest, including recalling match-winner Pedro, and saw his injury-hit side start in the ascendancy.

Evan Ferguson was twice blocked as he threatened inside two minutes, while AEK defender Domagoj Vida came close to a calamitous own goal with a firm back pass which had goalkeeper Cican Stankovic scampering across his line.

But the disjointed Seagulls faded from the encouraging start and were in regular danger of falling behind.

AEK forward Zuber forced Albion keeper Bart Verbruggen to turn over a powerful drive before heading narrowly wide from the resultant corner.

Brighton were then lucky not to concede just before the break amid relentless home pressure.

Switzerland international Zuber worked space inside the 18-yard box with quick feet before seeing his angled drive deflect off Lewis Dunk and rattle the left post, with Gacinovic unable to head home the rebound.

Verbruggen was forced to save from Gacinovic after the restart before Brighton snatched the lead against the run of play during a pivotal spell in the contest.

Swiss referee Sandro Scharer initially waved play on when Pedro went to ground under pressure from AEK captain Damian Szymanski before pointing to the spot after viewing a replay of the incident on the pitch-side monitor.

Brazilian forward Pedro duly dispatched his sixth penalty of the season – and third against AEK – by sending Stankovic the wrong way from 12 yards to back up his weekend brace at Forest as a substitute.

Brighton had barely threatened before the opener and their cause was further strengthened just 10 minutes later when Serbia midfielder Gacinovic over-ran the ball and raked his studs into Joel Veltman to receive a second booking.

Seagulls striker Ferguson threatened to double the lead before being repelled as he tried to round Stankovic having been sent clear.

AEK midfielder Orbelin Pineda then flashed wide as the home side pushed for a leveller but Brighton, despite an uninspiring display, held on relatively comfortably to ensure their European adventure continues.

Tomas Soucek struck late on yet again as West Ham secured their passage into the knock-out stages of the Europa League despite a Serbian snooze-fest against Backa Topola.

The Czech midfielder has now scored in his last five matches for club and country after an 89th-minute volley earned a scratchy 1-0 win.

Now they need to finish the job against Freiburg at the London Stadium in a fortnight to ensure they top the group and avoid a two-legged play-off in February.

Around 320 hardy West Ham fans made the 2,000-mile journey out to the Balkans, including a 100-mile trek up the motorway from Belgrade to the TSC Arena.

Many of them had got their wish, in the absence of injured forwards Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio, of a first start of the season for 19-year-old FA Youth Cup-winning striker Divin Mubama.

But the youngster barely got a sniff of the ball as West Ham struggled to rouse themselves in the sleepy Serbian town.

The hosts came into the encounter on the back of a 4-0 win over Super League leaders Partizan at the weekend, and they made a confident start with Uros Milovanovic forcing an early save from Lukasz Fabianski.

Then an error from Aaron Cresswell, handed a rare start in one of seven changes from the side which snatched a late win at Burnley thanks to Soucek’s goal, gifted Aleksandar Cirkovic a shooting opportunity with Fabianski saving again.

West Ham registered their first shot on target after half an hour, a tame effort from Said Benrahma on his 150th West Ham appearance which was easily dealt with by Veljko Ilic.

But it was a mind-numbing first half neatly summed up by former player Joe Cole, on TNT Sports, as “dross” and “appalling”.

Boss David Moyes turned to Danny Ings and the lesser-spotted Maxwel Cornet just after the hour, replacing Benrahma and Mubama, in a bid to inject some life into his unconvincing side.

And as the game ticked into stoppage tie Cornet crossed from the left and Soucek hammered in a volley to win it.

West Ham have enjoyed a thrilling run in Europe over the past three seasons, including their historic Europa Conference League final triumph in Prague.

Although this was not one which will live long in the memory it was an 18th win in 20 matches in Europe, job done for Moyes and his side.

Injury has ruled out Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker for more than a fortnight but manager Jurgen Klopp admits it could have been worse and the Brazilian should be fit to face Manchester United next month.

The keeper appeared to sustain a hamstring problem late in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City and although he managed to complete the match he is set to miss the next five matches – two of which he would not have played in as Caoimhin Kelleher deputises in the Europa League.

Alisson will miss European ties against LASK and Union Saint-Gilloise as well as Premier League games against Fulham, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace but should make a timely return for the visit of their arch-rivals on December 17.

Forward Diogo Jota was also injured in City game but his prognosis is not as good.

“Both are out. Ali is a bit lesser, so we have to see. Not day by day – he cannot play tomorrow or Sunday. Probably not the week after should be kind of OK,” Klopp said ahead of the Europa League visit of LASK.

“Alisson is not as bad (as we thought) but still bad enough. Diogo will take a little bit longer, don’t know exactly. Have to see.”

Kelleher has made only five appearances this season but last played back-to-back matches in January 2022 and has never played more than three matches in a row in his Liverpool career.

In the summer there was speculation about the 25-year-old wanting to seek first-team football elsewhere but Klopp said the current situation was exactly why the Republic of Ireland international was persuaded to stay.

“Yes, that’s pretty much exactly it. That’s why we knew we wanted to have Caoimh here for these moments,” added the Liverpool boss.

“Nobody, Caoimh as well, wanted Ali to get injured, but if these things happen then you need the strongest possible option and that’s Caoimh for us.

“That’s the only positive about that, to be honest, that we can put in Caoimh. That’s fine.

“Now he gets an opportunity that he deserves, he would have played tomorrow night anyway, that’s clear, but now he will have a few more games and hopefully he can show his full potential.”

Defeat in Toulouse earlier this month made Liverpool’s task of guaranteeing top spot in the group – and thereby avoiding a play-off round in the knockout stages – slightly more difficult but it could be secured on Thursday at home to LASK if Union Saint-Gilloise beat the second-placed Ligue 1 side.

But Klopp rejected the suggestion that result was a reminder that his much-changed European sides have standards to maintain.

“It was not needed but it wasn’t helpful. It was three weeks ago and a lot of things happened since then. It just made the situation more difficult, that’s how it is,” he said.

“Toulouse was maybe a one-off performance-wise – it was around Luton (a 1-1 draw) which was not too great either – but this was in a very short period of time.

“Besides that the boys usually perform and that’s what we should concentrate on.

“We want to win tomorrow night and we want to win in Belgium as well but if we don’t win tomorrow night the game in Belgium, in a super intense period, will be tough so it’s all about performing tomorrow night and really going for it, that’s the idea.”

Former Liverpool captain Phil Thompson has no issues with manager Jurgen Klopp making wholesale changes for their Europa League campaign but has warned against complacency.

In their four European matches so far Klopp has made 11, 10, eight and nine alterations from the previous Premier League game and up until the 3-2 defeat to Toulouse earlier this month it had no effect.

Defeat in the south of France extended the process of guaranteeing top spot, and thereby avoiding an extra play-off game in the knockout stage, but that could be secured on Thursday with a win at home to LASK if second-placed Toulouse do not beat Union Saint-Gilloise.

Klopp is likely to make significant changes again at Anfield, especially after injuries to goalkeeper Alisson Becker and Diogo Jota in Saturday’s draw at Manchester City, but three-time European Cup winner Thompson does not believe that should make any difference until the competition reaches its later stages.

“Toulouse was extremely difficult and the players didn’t perform well, there are no two ways about it, but that happens,” he told the PA news agency at the launch of the Ultimate LFC Experience in which fans can experience, among other things, training at the club’s Melwood complex.

“No one was moaning about that team in the other games when we made a lot of changes so I have no problems with that. It was the lads on the day.

“Because we had more or less got the group wrapped up I don’t think we were up for it as much as we should have been and that was the disappointment.

“With respect to the teams we have played in the Europa League it is not as tough as the Champions League group stage so you can mix and match.

“He has got a big squad, you need players and you need them to get minutes and a little bit of understanding and barring the Toulouse game things have gone according to plan.

“Players have got valuable time playing in the Europa League but I think as it goes on you see changes and the first team will come to the fore.”

Thompson believes Liverpool’s position as favourites, which has been the case before a ball was even kicked, is fully justified but knows the competition changes when teams from the Champions League drop down in the new year.

“You can see why they made Liverpool favourites, with their great tradition in the Champions League and European Cup, but you have to wait to see the teams who will drop out of the Champions League,” he added.

“In 2001 when we were in the UEFA Cup (and he was assistant to Gerard Houllier) the teams that dropped out were really top-class teams and it was really tough.

“We beat Olympiacos and Barcelona (both teams came from the Champions League) and Porto (who were Champions League qualifying losers).

“The league is your bread and butter but the European competitions are just fantastic so you have to enjoy it, embrace it and if big teams come all the better.”

Philippe Clement warned his Rangers players that Europa League knockout football is not yet assured despite a 2-1 win over Sparta Prague taking them in to second place in Group C.

In a thrilling first-half performances Brazilian striker Danilo got the breakthrough after 11 minutes before midfielder Todd Cantwell added a second in the 20th minute but the second half was not so convincing.

Sparta substitute Lukas Haraslin reduced the deficit in the 77th minute and although Danilo soon had the ball in the net again it was ruled out after VAR check for a foul and in the end the Light Blues were glad to hang on.

Real Betis have nine Group C points, Rangers have seven, Sparta Prague have four and Aris Limassol just three.

Rangers host Aris Limassol later in the month and can confirm qualification with a victory before concluding their campaign next month with a trip to Spain to face Real Betis.

However, Clement said: “If there is one thing I don’t want is that the players now think that we are qualified.

“We made a really important step forward that is true but we don’t have anything in our heads for the moment.

“We need to get our points against Aris or against Betis, we still have two games to go.

“It is focus and concentration to try to get three points out of every game and we know that football is a game that you don’t always get what you deserve. There can be circumstances that can go against you so we have to be at the top level every time.”

Clement is unbeaten in six games since taking over the Gers hot seat from Michael Beale – the only blip was a goalless draw against Sparta Prague away – and he claimed the first half was the best so far as he called for a complete 90-minute performance.

He said: “If you see the strength of the opponent, this is the best team we have played against until now, as we did in Prague (0-0).

“The first half  was really good, I want to see that football for 90 minutes, that is the goal.

“We could not do that from the situation we were in a few weeks ago, we need more time for that, to get everyone at the top physical level to do the distances, intensity and high speeds with and without the ball.”

Sparta Prague boss Brian Priske, a former team-mate of Clement at Club Brugge, conceded that Rangers were the better side on the night.

He said: “Yes they were, we have to admit it. Over 90 minutes for sure, they were the better side.

“The first half they really punished us, they played well, created big chances and we struggled creating chances and defending as we normally do.”

David Moyes was thrilled to get West Ham’s Europa League campaign back on track after Lucas Paqueta’s goal secured a 1-0 victory over Olympiacos.

The Brazil midfielder crashed in a second-half volley to keep the Hammers on top of Group A and to the brink of qualifying for the knockout stages.

Moyes’ side are also guaranteed European football after Christmas with the worst-case scenario a third-placed finish meaning a return to the Europa Conference League and a chance to defend the trophy they won last season.

They enjoyed a measure of revenge, too, having accused the Greek team of celebrating their 2-1 win in the reverse fixture two weeks ago as if they had won the Europa League itself.

Not only that, but West Ham have now won their last nine home games in Europe since the start of last season, one more than Manchester City.

“We were disappointed to lose our record of 17 unbeaten two weeks ago against Olympiacos, so it’s good to get back on track,” said Moyes.

“We’re top of the group, we still have two matches to play but at the moment I think this is the hardest group we’ve had, in our third year in it, and it’s proved to be the case. We’ve done the job tonight. It’s a great result for us.

“Europe has been great for this football club, we’ve had some great nights and long may they continue.”

Paqueta, the best player on the pitch, broke the deadlock in the 74th minute after Bowen’s square pass found James Ward-Prowse.

The former Southampton midfielder chipped the ball forward into the area for Paqueta to fire home on the volley.

The goal was initially ruled out by an assistant referee’s flag, but a VAR check showed the Brazilian was onside and referee Matej Jug, who had infuriated West Ham with some strange decisions all evening, got the biggest cheer of the night when he signalled a goal.

“I don’t think VAR needed to come to the rescue, it was onside, it was a goal,” added Moyes.

“We needed it because the game was very tight, there was very little in it.

“He took the goal brilliantly tonight but there were lots of things I wanted him to do better. We’ve got room for improvement.”

It was a fourth assist in four European outings for Ward-Prowse, who was overlooked by England again earlier in the day, more than a year after his last call-up.

Paqueta pointedly went to the 3,000 travelling fans to celebrate, probably because the West Ham players were targeted by laser pens from Greek supporters in Athens.

West Ham survived a late scare when Mady Camara rattled a post but they held on to complete their European revenge mission.

Rangers moved clear into second place in Europa League Group C with what turned out to be a nervy 2-1 win over Sparta Prague at Ibrox.

The two sides fought out a goalless draw in the Czech Republic last month but it took only 11 minutes for Brazilian striker Danilo to get the breakthrough before midfielder Todd Cantwell added a second in the 20th minute.

The visitors smartened up after the break however, with substitute Lukas Haraslin reducing the deficit in the 77th minute and although Danilo soon had the ball in the net again it was ruled out after VAR check for a foul and in the end the home players and fans were glad to hear the final whistle.

Philippe Clement has now gone six games unbeaten since taking over as Light Blues boss and incremental improvement is clear, but they were holding on at the end.

Real Betis have nine points, Rangers have seven, Sparta Prague have four and Aris Limassol just three.

Rangers host Aris Limassol later in the month before concluding their campaign next month with a trip to Spain to face Real Betis and there is plenty still at stake.

The home side were buoyed by their commanding 3-1 Viaplay Cup semi-final win over Hearts on Sunday and Clement made one change with centre-back Ben Davies in for Leon Balogun, who, along with left-back Ridvan Yilmaz, was not included in the European squad by former boss Michael Beale.

Rangers’ first chance came in the fifth minute when a cut-back from Cantwell just missed the sliding Danilo, wearing a mask again to protect a cheekbone injury.

However, the Gers striker soon took advantage of a horror mistake by the visitors, intercepting a lazy backpass from defender James Gomez before racing through to slip the ball past keeper Peter Vindahl for his third goal in four games.

The Czech side were rattled and Vindahl soon had to make a save from a spectacular Cantwell effort.

At the other end, Rangers keeper Jack Butland tipped a header from Gomez over the bar for another corner which came to nothing, before Rangers stretched the lead.

Danilo took possession deep in the visitors’ half, moved the ball onto the right-hand side for Cantwell who turned back inside Gomez before bending a drive into the far corner for his first goal of the season and once again the home fans were celebrating.

Sparta players came together in an impromptu ring to try to sort things out but it got no better.

In the 27th minute a poor clearance from Sparta captain Asger Sorensen from an Abdallah Sima cross ended at the feet of Danilo and he smashed the outside of the post with a drive from 16 yards and 10 minutes later skipper James Tavernier came close with a 25-yard free-kick.

Gomez was having a torrid night and his slip allowed Cantwell  to run clear on to a Connor Goldson pass but his unconvincing shot was blocked by the foot of Vindahl.

There was no surprise when Gomez failed to emerge for the second half with Victor Olatunji also staying inside as Qazim Laci and Tomas Wiesner came on for Czech side who began to push Rangers back for the first time, with Laci sending a header past the post just after the hour mark.

Clement’s side could not get going and in the 69th minute Cantwell made way for  young attacker Ross McCausland to give a much-needed energy boost to the Govan side.

Still Sparta had the upper hand and Haraslin just missed the target with a shot into the ground following a corner.

Vindahl made saves from McCausland and midfielder Ryan Jack as Rangers tried to reassert themselves but they found themselves under real pressure when Haraslin played a one-two with Angelo Preciado and swept the ball into the net from 10 yards.

Danilo looked like he had immediately restored Rangers’ two-goal lead but Italian referee David Massa checked his pitch side monitor and decided that the Gers attacker had tripped Serensen to get his chance.

Butland made a fine save from Haraslin’s powerful drive as Rangers defended desperately for a valuable three points which looked like being a lot easier earned at the interval.

Lucas Paqueta got West Ham’s Europa League campaign back on track with the winner in a 1-0 victory over Olympiacos.

The Brazil midfielder crashed in a second-half volley to keep the Hammers on top of Group A and to the brink of qualifying for the knockout stages.

It was also a measure of revenge for West Ham, who had accused the Greek team of celebrating their 2-1 win in the reverse fixture two weeks ago as if they had won the Europa League itself.

Olympiacos fans created a hostile atmosphere that night in Athens, unfurling a huge banner across one stand reading ‘Tonight you dine in hell’.

The London Stadium, by contrast, could never be referred to as a cauldron of noise, and besides, ‘Tonight you dine in Westfield’ does not have the same ring to it.

Nevertheless, the place was crackling at kick-off with the Hammers, last season’s Europa Conference League winners, in need of a victory to keep their continental destiny in their own hands.

But a workmanlike but limited Olympiacos proved a tough nut to crack in the opening 45 minutes.

Said Benrahma dragged an early shot wide and then saw a better one saved by visiting goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis.

From the corner James Ward-Prowse’s cross was headed straight at Paschalakis by Nayef Aguerd.

Jarrod Bowen, on the day he earned another call up to the England squad, nodded Vladimir Coufal’s cross wide before Paschalakis was called into action again by Benrahma’s low drive.

Two more Aguerd headers were off target before Olympiacos had their first shot in anger, shortly before half-time, with on-loan Wolves forward Daniel Podence volleying Francisco Ortega’s cross wide.

Ward-Prowse should have given his side the lead on the hour when he met a cutback from Bowen, but the midfielder’s shot was straight at Paschalakis.

But Paqueta, the best player on the pitch, finally broke the deadlock after Bowen’s square pass found Ward-Prowse.

The former Southampton midfielder chipped it forward into the area for Paqueta to fire home on the volley from.

The goal was initially ruled out by an assistant referee’s flag, but a VAR check showed the Brazilian was onside and referee Matej Jug, who had infuriated West Ham with some strange decisions all evening, got the biggest cheer of the night when he signalled a goal.

It was a fourth assist in four European outings for Ward-Prowse, who was overlooked by England again earlier in the day, more than a year after his last call-up.

Paqueta pointedly went to the 3,000 travelling fans to celebrate, probably because the West Ham players were targeted by laser pens from Greek supporters in Athens.

West Ham survived a late scare when Mady Camara rattled a post but they held on to complete their European revenge mission.

Roberto De Zerbi admitted he is worried about Brighton’s growing injury problems after they took control of their Europa League destiny with a commanding 2-0 win away to Ajax.

Goals either side of half-time from Ansu Fati and Simon Adingra sealed victory in the Johan Cruyff Arena against the Dutch giants, who despite a change of manager showed little more ambition than they had in losing at the Amex Stadium two weeks previously.

But the result was marred by the loss of three players to injury as Lewis Dunk, James Milner and the returning Pervis Estupinan were all forced off.

De Zerbi has previously spoken of the toll that a first season in Europe has taken on his squad, with a hectic schedule having put pressure on a relatively small pool as the absentee list has lengthened.

Estupinan, who has already missed much of the campaign, left the field just 12 minutes after making his return as a substitute in the second half, with Milner also having gone off in the eighth minute.

Captain Dunk was withdrawn at half-time after pulling up with what looked like a groin problem, though the manager said he suspected it was not a serious concern.

Still, De Zerbi emphasised the havoc that injuries continue to wreak on his team.

“I’m very worried but it’s a problem we are fighting in this moment,” he said. “We have a lot of injuries, especially in the full-back position. For that we have to find another solution. We play Sunday another crucial game (against Sheffield United) for us and we want to win.

“I don’t know (about Dunk) at the moment. I think it’s not a big problem, but he’s played so many games in a row. We have to understand better the (injury).”

Despite the injuries, Brighton were able to celebrate yet another landmark under De Zerbi as they won for the first time away from home in Europe.

There were particularly fine displays in attack from goalscorers Fati and Adingra, whilst Evan Ferguson and Joao Pedro – the Europa League’s joint-top scorer at start of play with four – also impressed.

“I’m really delighted for the result, for the performance, for our fans,” said De Zerbi. “They were incredible and we are very happy because we made them happy.

“We have three top players – Ansu Fati, Joao Pedro and Evan Ferguson. We expect always a great job in ball possession, in the last 20 metres. But they are very young.

“Today I’m very happy for the performance of Joao. He fought 90 minutes. He didn’t score but he played a great game.

“I’m satisfied but I expect always more and more. For Ansu, he played very well in the first half but after the second goal I think he could play better. He could score the third goal.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits he is more concerned with side’s defensive display than the role VAR played in denying his side a late Europa League draw in Toulouse.

Individual mistakes and a lack of collective cohesion saw the hosts take a 3-1 lead but Diogo Jota’s 89th-minute strike, after Cristian Casseres’ own goal had got them back into the game, set up a dramatic conclusion.

In the seventh and final minute of added time 20-year-old centre-back Jarell Quansah thought he had equalised but after a long delay referee Georgi Kabakov was advised to go to the pitchside monitor and he ruled Alexis Mac Allister had handled the ball, even though it had initially bounced up off his chest very early in the move for the goal.

“I only saw the video back now and for me it’s not a handball – but how can I decide that?” said Klopp.

“Actually, I am a bit more concerned about (the fact that) I would have loved us to have played better, to be honest. That’s my main issue tonight.

“In the end, we were intense, we threw everything in, but the problem is in a football game you have to make the decisive things in the right moment to do them right.”

Liverpool’s problem was a side registering nine changes from Sunday’s draw at Luton never found any rhythm or structure and opponents who were hammered 5-1 at Anfield a fortnight ago took full advantage.

They were not helped by Kostas Tsimikas’ error dawdling in possession costing them the important opening goal to Aron Donnum.

“We cannot concede the goals we conceded again,” added Klopp.

“The first goal can happen, but then it happened in the second half with similar situations: we were completely open, last line too deep, counter-attack.

“They scored five goals, two disallowed, and that is obviously then not good. Yes, the result is the opposite of good, but the performance was just not good enough.

“It was well deserved to lose because they won pretty much all the decisive battles. We had too many situations where we should have won the ball but we didn’t.

“On top of that we gave the ball away easily at least twice – one was a goal, the other I am not sure if it was an allowed goal or a disallowed goal.

“Defending-wise it was just not good enough.”

Defeat ends a three-match winning run and although Liverpool remain top of the group their advantage has been cut to two points.

They also missed out on guaranteeing top spot early and therefore also skipping the additional play-off round in the knockout phase after LASK’s victory over Union Saint-Gilloise meant victory would have given them an unassailable lead.

The consequences of that are if Toulouse win their next game against Union the race to top the group will go down to the final round, and with Liverpool’s trip to Belgium coming immediately before the Premier League visit of arch-rivals Manchester United Klopp would have been hoping that fixture was a dead rubber to allow him to rest players.

Academy graduate Jarell Quansah was denied a dream first goal by VAR in the final minute of added time as Liverpool squandered the chance to secure qualification for the Europa League knockout stage with a 3-2 defeat in Toulouse.

The 20-year-old, replacing ill captain Virgil van Dijk in the side, poked home in the seventh additional minute to claim what would have been a barely-deserved point in southern France.

However, VAR alerted referee Georgi Kabakov to a potential handball after the ball bounced up off Alexis Mac Allister’s chest in the build-up and the Georgian official contentiously chalked it off.

Even a draw would have hardly papered over the individual errors and a lack of cohesion throughout a team registering nine changes.

Toulouse, who had won only three matches prior to this game, had been thrashed 5-1 at Anfield a fortnight ago but were an entirely different prospect on home turf, although they benefited from some shambolic defending.

Liverpool still top the group but their advantage has been cut to just two points and although they have the two weakest sides still to play Klopp’s 450th game in charge was not one to remember as they slipped to their first European defeat this season.

The only cause for celebration on the night came a couple of hours before kick-off when news came through from Colombia that Luis Diaz’s father had been released from his 12-day kidnap ordeal.

But even that could not ease the pain of Kostas Tsimikas dawdling in possession for Toulouse’s psychologically important first goal, or how easily the visitors conceded two more in the second half.

It even took an own goal from Cristian Casseres to get them back into the game at 2-1, only for them to concede again less than three minutes later and it was not until the 89th minute that substitute Diogo Jota set up the late drama.

On the back of the Diaz news the game began brightly for Liverpool with Joe Gomez, who has never scored for Liverpool in 188 games, flicking a Cody Gakpo cross onto the bar.

Diaz turned Mikkel Desler inside out twice to win a free-kick before his knockdown of Gomez’s cross saw Mac Allister’s volley deflected over, with goalkeeper Guillaume Restes’ parrying Ben Doak’s shot.

Toulouse gave Liverpool a warning they did not heed when Gabriel Suazo slid in at the far post to deflect Niklas Schmidt’s cross wide.

Seven minutes later Tsimikas was sloppy in possession and robbed by Donnum, who raced into the penalty area to beat Caoimhin Kelleher via a deflection off Quansah’s leg.

Midfielder Wataru Endo, who had already been booked, was lucky to escape with a lunge on Casseres but he was not so fortunate in surviving the half-time cull – and neither was Tsimikas.

Dominik Szoboszlai and Trent Alexander-Arnold were their replacements, with the unfortunate Doak making way for Mohamed Salah.

Toulouse immediately exposed the space behind Alexander-Arnold, as Gomez had switched to left-back, with Suazo breaking forward and cutting inside Quansah before rolling a shot wide of the far post.

Thijs Dallinga did beat Kelleher in the 50th minute but referee Georgi Kabakov brought play back for a foul on Joel Matip on the edge of the penalty area.

However, Dallinga’s movement got the better of Matip eight minutes later when Diaz lost the ball on the left wing, running in behind to collect Suazo’s cross with his first touch and fire past Kelleher with his second.

Liverpool pulled a goal back they barely deserved in fortuitous fashion in the 74th minute when Gomez’s looping header towards the far post was turned into his own net by Casseres.

But that luck was short-lived as almost instantly Frank Magri converted Suazo’s cross.

Although Jota’s weaving run and shot set up Quansah’s moment in the spotlight late on, the technology denied the young centre-back.

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