Liverpool 1 - 0 Ajax
Liverpool: Jones 58’
The big news pre-match is that Alisson Becker is out with an apparent hamstring injury. Academy product Caoimhin Kelleher comes in, which is an interesting call from Kloppo. Hopefully it’s precautionary. I mean seriously, someone make this injury crisis fucking stop already. Otherwise it’s a relatively strong side. Joel Matip and Fabinho will be the starting center back pairing, and Jordan Henderson returns to the midfield. Up top, we have an attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, and Sadio Mané. Hopefully they can offer the young goalkeeper protection in the form of several insurance goals.
Liverpool create a good chance in the opening couple of minutes. Mané is a little slow to play Jota in, but the Portuguese international still runs onto the ball, and cuts it back for an on-rushing Curtis Jones. Jones hits a powerful first-time shot with the left foot, but unfortunately it’s right down the keeper’s throat. A few minutes later Jones has another crack from outside the box—this time with his favored right—but rattles the shot off the inside of the post. Unlucky!
Fifteen minutes in, and Liverpool look far the better side. The hosts are passing the ball around confidently in possession, pressing hard out of possession, and looking very dangerous on the break.
There’s a stop in action after Andy Robertson goes down. The medical team tapes up his foot and ankle, which certainly doesn’t look great, but he’s quick to come back onto the pitch. Please don’t get injured Robbo. Pretty please?
Kelleher hasn’t had much to do, but he did well to reach a well-struck shot from distance, and tip it around the post. That save is bound to do him a world of good, confidence wise.
The match sort of settled into a stale-mate in the last 15 minutes or so. Both sides created a couple of half-chances, but both seemed happy to play out the 0-0 until halftime and regroup for the second half. Liverpool were getting some early success playing long balls for Mané and Jota to run onto, and it might be the way to open the scoring as things wear on.
Ten minutes into the second half and it’s Ajax’s turn to hit the post! Kelleher does well to get down and palm away a shot. But he can only palm it as far as another attacker, who clanks it against the outside of the post with a shot from a tight angel.
GOAL! Liverpool have their breakthrough! Neco Williams cuts onto his left boot and puts in a cross that everyone—including the Ajax keeper—thought was going out of bounds. Everyone, that is, but the Scouser on the team, Curtis Jones. As such, Jones found himself wide open at the back post for a tap-in.
Incidentally, FC Midtjylland have an unlikely lead in the other match. So as things stand, Liverpool are not only through to the next round, but would top the group as well.
Klopp makes his first sub of the night (yeno you have five, Kloppo?), bringing off Jota for Roberto Firmino. Jota was bright all match, but on current form it’s almost weird when he doesn’t score. Saving it for his former side on the weekend, I suppose.
Both Mané and Salah have had several chances to extend the lead from counterattacks, and both have left their chances wanting. This match could be out of sight by now with better finishing or a better final pass. But it’s not. So it goes.
Salah tries to make amends for all of his bad decisions by making a great one: laying it into the path of Bobby Firmino to put him 1 on 1 with the keeper. However, the keeper gets down and palms the shot onto the post and out. So close.
A BIG STOP from Kelleher. Ajax work a free header from close range, but Kelleher palms it over the bar for a corner.
With one minute left in regular time, Klopp brings on just his second sub: Rhys Williams for Mo Salah. Yeno you have five subs there, Kloppo.
It wasn’t a performance for the ages, but it was a very professional and composed performance. It was good enough for the win, And good enough to top Group D.
And congrats to FC Midtjylland for picking up your first ever point in the Champions League.