Roberto De Zerbi explains what went wrong in Brighton’s Europa League debut defeat to AEK Athens. ‘The full-back didn’t read the situation well and went towards the ball rather than sticking to his man.’

It was an historic occasion, as Brighton and Hove Albion played their first ever UEFA fixture after the Italian tactician took them to qualification for the Europa League.

The crowd was left with a defeat, but certainly not bored by the 3-2 thriller won by AEK Athens.

Brighton fought back twice with Joao Pedro penalties from an acrobatic Djibril Sidibe volley and Mijat Gacinovic flicking on a Levi Garcia free kick, but were undone by a late Ezequiel Ponce dinked finish.

De Zerbi’s only previous European experience was the 2021-22 Champions League at the helm of Shakhtar Donetsk.

“I think we saw the difference in experience at this level between the two teams. We were anxious, even hasty trying to get things done quickly,” De Zerbi told Sky Sport Italia.

“We did not deserve to win, but we certainly didn’t deserve to lose either. We were unfortunate on the first two goals, even if I don’t like talking about luck. They were two set plays, we were more distracted than we should’ve been.”

When it came to the winner, De Zerbi pointed the finger of blame squarely at Tariq Lamptey.

“On the third goal, it wasn’t even really a counter-attack. The full-back didn’t read the situation well and went towards the ball rather than sticking to his man, there was a block, a deflection and a rebound.

“It was not our best performance of the season, but we were unfortunate too.”

This is a very tight group, as Ajax and Olympique Marseille played a 3-3 thriller.

“You journalists often act sneaky and mention us as one of the potential winners of the Cup, but I laugh. I don’t deny, I don’t reply, I just listen, but this is our first appearance in the Europa League – not just the club, but many of the players.

“That is the problem, getting used to three games per week. We want to improve and to get through the group phase, but we know our strengths, our weaknesses and where we have to improve.”

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