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Ajax 0, Liverpool 1 - Match Recap: Ugly But Effective

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Liverpool start their Champions League campaign with a hard fought away win in Amsterdam.

Ajax Amsterdam v Liverpool FC: Group D - UEFA Champions League Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Ajax 0 - 1 Liverpool

Liverpool: Tagliafico (OG) 35’

Pre-Match

Jurgen Klopp had to get a little creative after Saturday’s bloodbath mauling horror show Derby. With two of the three senior center halves injured on Saturday, Fabinho gets the start next to Joe Gomez. The midfield gets a complete makeover; Geoginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, and Curtis Jones all get the start. Every other position is as you’d expect it to be.

Liverpool are heavy favorites not only to qualify from the group, but to win it. But there are no points on the board, and their journey to the knockout rounds would get a whole lot easier with a win on the road tonight. Putting aside our immediate concerns in Group D, let’s just enjoy watching these two, massively important and historic European sides finally facing off against each other again after 54 years.

First Half

In the opening few minutes, the Reds are definitely trying to play Sadio Mané in, either over the top or with through balls along the deck. This is clearly a weakness they’ve exploited; hopefully it pays dividends at some point during proceedings.

Adrian is doing his best to give us heart attacks in the early going. First with a miscommunication with Robbo, then nearly getting caught out in possession. Please get well soon, Ali.

Ajax have been dangerous in the first 20 minutes or so, creating a few tense moments and half-chances. In possession, The Reds haven’t clicked going forward, lacking the final ball, or the ball before the final ball.

Ajax appear to create the biggest chance of the night, although it might have just been a shade offside. Regardless, Adrian came up big with the save and a moment later...

GOAL! Liverpool score from a throw-in! Thomas Gronnemark, who coaches both of these sides, will either be happy with the attack, or disappointed in the defending. Mané works himself into some space in the box after the throw, and shoots. It should have been easily dealt with, but the defender cannot sort his feet, and sends it in for an own goal. Whatever, still counts!

Both sides end the half with a couple of good chances. First Fabinho has to channel his inner James Milner and clear one off the line, then Liverpool go right down the other end and nearly force a second own goal.

It would be nice to see a bit more midfield control in the second half. Or, you know, any midfield control.

Second Half

Speaking of a midfield that midfields, captain Jordan Henderson is coming on for Curtis Jones. Unlucky for Jones, who didn’t do a whole lot wrong in the first half. But he’s not Hendo, and this game needs Hendo.

And yet Ajax have a big chance early. The work a shot from outside the box which beats Adrian, but fortunately clatters off the woodwork. Yikes.

Liverpool responded well after the early scare, and look the likelier team to score for the first time in the match.

Klopp clearly taking advantage of the extra subs, by swapping out the entire front three! Well, OK! Takumi Minamino, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Diogo Jota all come on at the hour mark.

Jota and Minamino have both looked like they’re in the mood to score since coming on. Jota, in particular, nearly caught the keeper out with some smart pressing.

Trent Alexander-Arnold goes into the book for time wasting on a throw. It’s not so much “time wasting” as much as it is “always taking forever on a throw.”

Klopp makes his final sub, bringing on Rhys Williams for Milner in stoppage time.

Final Thoughts

It wasn’t pretty, and it could’ve gone either way with a different bounce of the ball here or there. But the ball bounced with Liverpool tonight. The makeshift defense did enough to bend, but not break. And the attack did just enough to create the uncertainty that led to the own goal. If the Reds beat FC Midtjylland at home next week—and they should—it’ll be a very good start to Group D.