Liverpool’s Last-16 Dreams Dashed: Toulouse Stuns with Shock Victory

Liverpool's Last-16 Dreams Dashed: Toulouse Stuns with Shock Victory

Toulouse defeated Liverpool 3-2 at Stadium Municipal in a thrilling Group E match, and a subpar Liverpool team lost the opportunity to secure a spot in the Europa League’s round of sixteen.

If LASK Linz had defeated Union SG, the Reds would have finished top in the section with nine points from nine games, and the Austrian team fulfilled their part by winning 3-0.

Though there was a healthy dose of late drama as a last-gasp Jarell Quansah strike was disallowed, Liverpool were stunned in France two weeks after thrashing Les Violets 5-1.

Liverpool's Last-16 Dreams Dashed: Toulouse Stuns with Shock Victory

Aron Donnum, Thijs Dallinga, and Frank Magri rendered Cristian Casseres Jr.’s own goal and Diogo Jota’s strike inconsequential, condemning Jurgen Klopp’s side to their first continental loss of the new term.

Just before the match began, encouraging news came out of Colombia: Luis Diaz’s father had been freed 12 days after being abducted with his wife by the rebel group ELN.

In a new-look assault led by Ben Doak and Cody Gakpo, Diaz started for the first time for the Reds since his parents’ ordeal. Four minutes in, Diaz’s inswinging free kick found Joe Gomez, who with his back to goal, flicked a header onto the bar.

As anticipated, Klopp’s squad controlled possession of the ball early on, but Guillaume Restes wasn’t given much of a chance until the 31st minute, when Doak stung his fellow teenager’s hands with a close-range volley.

Toulouse, however, needed just one chance—and one error—to stun their Merseyside rivals.

Five minutes after Doak was foiled, Donnum advanced into the area, let loose, and saw his strike deceive Caoimhin Kelleher via a slight deflection off of Quansah, robbing a dawdling Kostas Tsimikas of the ball on the left.

Dominik Szoboszlai, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Mohamed Salah were all introduced by Klopp in a triple substitution during the half, but the changes had little effect on the Reds’ appetite.

Gabriel Suazo wasted a fantastic opportunity to extend Toulouse’s lead three minutes after the restart, shooting wide from ten yards out. Dallinga was then called for a foul on Joel Matip, and he finished the goal.

When Diaz was crowded out on the wing and Vincent Sierro sent in a wonderful cross for Dallinga, who took a touch before unleashing a wicked low effort across Kelleher’s goal in the 58th minute, the Dutch marksman, however, was not to be denied by the linesman’s flag.

Dallinga positioned himself, and Matip and Quansah were far too slow to respond. Donnum’s goal in the 65th minute nearly put Liverpool in even worse shape, but the offside flag was raised against assist Niklas Schmidt.

A mild Liverpool had no complaints over the score, but in the 73rd minute, Klopp’s team unexpectedly returned to the game after Gomez headed an Alexander-Arnold cross to the back stick. This resulted in a mid-air scuffle, with the ball rebounding into the net off of Casseres Jr.’s shoulder.

But Liverpool’s terrible defending soon came back to haunt them, as Magri’s first-time strike three minutes later gave Toulouse their two-goal lead back after Kelleher had palmed Suazo’s low cross out of Dallinga’s path.

In the 89th minute, the visitors did manage to set up a suspenseful finish when Jota, assisted by Alexis Mac Allister, broke through the Toulouse defense and skillfully found the bottom corner to cut the lead in half.

After a long delay, Mac Allister was found to have handled the ball during the build-up, leaving Liverpool to lament what could have been. Pandemonium then broke out in the away end as Quansah swept home a leveler in injury time.

Although Toulouse has closed the distance to only two points, Liverpool is still leading the section. The Reds will now look to secure a top-two finish against LASK in three days.

Sunday afternoon will see Liverpool play their last match before the international break against Brentford at Anfield. In Ligue 1, Toulouse will visit Lille at the same time.

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