We round up the talking points from Thursday's night of Europa League and Europa Conference League football, featuring a tough first night in continental competition for Brighton, wins for Liverpool, West Ham, Rangers and Aberdeen, and a worrying loss for Aston Villa...
Friday 22 September 2023 17:38, UK
There were eyebrows raised when the teamsheet came out and Brighton captain Lewis Dunk was not in the matchday squad. Roberto De Zerbi confirmed pre-match that he was injured, along with striker Evan Ferguson.
We already knew that his absence would be a huge blow, but it was a bit of surprise just how much Brighton missed him.
While AEK's opener was a moment of quality, their other two goals came from a lack of defensive awareness from Brighton's back line. It was not helped by misplaced passes that the visitors capitalised on, but there's no doubting the presence of Dunk in the middle of defence would have helped massively.
Not only with his own defensive qualities, but also his leadership and organisation of the team. That was lacking at times when AEK were on the attack.
In fact, De Zerbi himself arguably summed up exactly what Brighton were missing with Dunk's absence, saying: «When we defend set-pieces against these teams, we have to be more focused, more with the right attitude, more smart.
»Sometimes, we didn't do it. If we want to make another upgrade, we have to know before the game the situations where we can concede goals."
Europa League results
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Europa Conference League group tables
Jan Paul van Hecke did well in spells, but he too could have done better for AEK's third. It's hard to pick out any standout moments in defence from Dunk's replacementRead on skysports.com