Liverpool ensure Champions League progress, Spurs foiled by VAR

Liverpool ensure Champions League progress, Spurs foiled by VAR
Liverpool's Roberto Firmino in action against Ajax Amsterdam in their Champions League clash at the Johan Cruyff Arena on 26 October 2022. (Photo: Jean Catuffe / Getty Images)

Liverpool advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League but Tottenham Hotspur need one more point after a dramatic draw at home.

Liverpool overcame a slow start to beat hosts Ajax Amsterdam 3-0 on Wednesday, ensuring a top-two finish in Group A and progression into the knockout stage of the Champions League.

Mohamed Salah put Liverpool ahead against the run of play three minutes before halftime and they then took command after the break with two quick goals from Darwin Núñez and Harvey Elliott to claim a convincing triumph.

The victory kept them three points behind leaders Napoli, who won 3-0 at home to Rangers to make it maximum points from their five group games.

Napoli visit Anfield on Tuesday to decide top place, when Liverpool would need at least a 3-0 win to edge the Serie A leaders on the head-to-head after losing 4-1 in September.

Ajax needed to win by two goals on Wednesday to keep up their slim Champions League hopes, but will now be battling Rangers in Glasgow next week for a Europa League spot.

The Dutch club have three points while Rangers are yet to open their account.

Harvey Elliott celebrates Liverpool’s victory over Ajax. (Photo: Jean Catuffe / Getty Images)

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool is challenged by Ajax’s Calvin Bassey at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam on 26 October 2022. (Photo: Jean Catuffe / Getty Images)

Steven Berghuis crashed an early effort against the upright as Ajax began in lively fashion and with an unexpectedly physical approach that unsettled Liverpool’s defence. It ensured some edgy exchanges between the players, indicative of what was at stake in the contest at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

The game turned suddenly, and firmly, in Liverpool’s favour when skipper Jordan Henderson’s outstanding pass, delivered with the outside of his boot, was met with an equally proficient finish from Salah who lofted the ball expertly over Ajax goalkeeper Remko Pasveer as he rushed out of goal.

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It might have been 2-0 within 120 seconds as Núñez squandered an easy tap-in at the back post after an unselfish pass from Roberto Firmino, striking his effort against the upright.

Núñez made amends four minutes into the second half with a strong glancing header from a corner and the contest was over two minutes later when Elliot scored. He thrashed a powerful shot into the roof of the net from an acute angle after being set up by a perfectly weighted pass from Salah.

Matt Doherty of Spurs in action against Sporting CP at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on 26 October 2022. (Photo: Julian Finney / Getty Images)

“We had a tough half an hour where Ajax made a lot of pressure and we needed to defend with a lot of passion. You have to get through these phases,” said Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp.

“Then we scored a goal which was absolutely exceptional. Second half we really had a good start, scored two wonderful goals and then controlled the game really well. We are through to the knockout stages and I will never take that for granted.”

VAR damaging the game, says Conte

Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte said VAR is doing “a lot of damage” to football after seeing a last-gasp Harry Kane goal controversially ruled out in the 1-1 Champions League Group D draw with Sporting on Wednesday.

Kane fired home from close range with almost the last kick of the game in the fifth minute of stoppage time after Emerson Royal headed the ball across the goal.

After a VAR check lasting several minutes Tottenham’s wild celebrations over a winner that would have sent them through to the last 16 turned to bitter frustration and Dutch referee Danny Makkelie sent off Conte for his reaction.

Photos of the decision with VAR lines added showed that Kane’s knee may have been millimetres offside when Emerson headed the ball across, although the ball also came to Kane off a Sporting defender.

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“I think the ball was in front of Kane and the goal is a goal. Yeah. I don’t understand the line they put. It’s very difficult to comment on this decision,” Conte told BT Sport.

“VAR is doing a lot of damage. I want to see in another stadium of a big team if they are ready to disallow this type of goal. I’d like to know this. A lot of injustice. I don’t like this type of situation. I see not positive things,” he added.

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The result left Tottenham on top of a desperately tight group on eight points, with Sporting and Eintracht Frankfurt, who beat Olympique de Marseille 2-1, on seven. Marseille have six.

Spurs will qualify for the knockout stage if they avoid defeat at Marseille next week, with Sporting hosting Frankfurt.

Atlético exit Champions League

Atlético Madrid missed a stoppage-time penalty in a 2-2 draw at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday, which ended their hopes of reaching the Champions League knockout stage.

Atlético spurned the chance to win the match when Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky saved Yannick Carrasco’s spot kick before Saúl Ñíguez’s follow-up strike hit the crossbar.

The result ensured Porto go into next February’s knockout stage, with the Portuguese side on nine points in Group B after a 4-0 win at leaders Club Brugge, already guaranteed a top-two finish on 10 points, earlier on Wednesday.

Spurs’ Ivan Perisic takes a corner kick during their Champions League match agaimst Sporting. (Photo: Sebastian Frej / MB Media/Getty Images)

Atlético, without a win and goalless in their previous three Champions League outings, exit the competition at the group stage for only the second time in the past 10 years.

Leverkusen forward Adam Hložek set up Moussa Diaby, who scored in September’s 2-0 home win over Atlético, for the France winger to blast a shot from a tight angle into the far top corner and put the visitors ahead in the ninth minute.

Atlético levelled in the 22nd through Belgian Carrasco’s low shot inside the near post from the edge of the box.

But determined Leverkusen went back in front seven minutes later when on-loan winger Callum Hudson-Odoi fired a shot down the middle past goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

Atlético once more came from behind to equalise five minutes into the second half through an impressive goal from substitute midfielder Rodrigo De Paul before their last-gasp penalty miss.

Atlético travel to Porto in their last group stage clash on Tuesday when Leverkusen host leaders Brugge as the Spaniards and Germans fight it out for a Europa League knockout spot. Reuters/DM


Internazionale (2) 4 Viktoria Plzeň (0) 0

Club Brugge (0) 0 Porto (1) 4

Napoli (2) 3 Rangers (0) 0

Ajax (0) 0 Liverpool (1) 3

Barcelona (0) 0 Bayern München (2) 3

Atlético Madrid (1) 2 Bayer Leverkusen (2) 2

Tottenham Hotspur (0) 1 Sporting CP (1) 1

Eintracht Frankfurt (2) 2 Olympique Marseille (1) 1



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