Liverpool survived a scare at the Johan Cruijff Arena as a Nicolas Tagliafico own goal saw them earn a narrow 1-0 win over Ajax in the UEFA Champions League.
Jurgen Klopp fielded a strong first eleven Liverpool side to take on Ajax at the Johan Cruijff Arena. However, it was Ajax who pressed hard and put Liverpool in a tough position defensively, with Adrian and Joe Gomez almost gifting the home team a chance.
The Liverpool front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane looked out of sorts, but some astute defending inside the box from Liverpool’s defenders and some decent saves from Adrian made sure Ajax couldn’t do much at the other end.
In the 35th minute, though, Nicolas Tagliafico’s attempt to clear Sadio Mane’s shot/cross found the back of the Ajax net, thus gifting Liverpool the lead. Ajax pushed on for an equaliser and seemed to have gotten it, only for Fabinho to clear the chipped shot off the line in an acrobatic fashion.
Davy Klaasen almost got the goal at the start of the second half, with his shot hitting the post before bouncing away. Roberto Firmino appealed for a penalty for a foul at the bottom corner of the box but the referee deemed it too soft.
Another Quincy Promes shot and Adrian was at it again, parrying it before Takumi Minamino came close to doubling the Liverpool lead. Diogo Jota and Georginio Wijnaldum came close as well. Ajax tried and tried, to no avail and Liverpool came away with a sweaty 1-0 win over Ajax to start their Group Stage off in the UEFA Champions League 2020/21.
Let us look at how the individuals fared.
Adrian – 6.5
Was nervy to start with, but made decent saves in the first half. Also made sure Quincy Promes could not level the scoreline at any time with his attempts. A good outing that would do wonders to his confidence but he needs to command more authority inside the box.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6
Was not as visible in the game while on the attack and was continuously under the cosh at the back. His defensive weaknesses have been found out too many times by too many clubs and Klopp needs to do something about it, especially with Virgil van Dijk set to be out for a lengthy period.
Fabinho – 8
Fabinho at CB for Liverpool:
Liverpool 0-0 Bayern
Brighton 0-1 Liverpool
Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool
Ajax 0-1 Liverpool
My versatile Brazilian. pic.twitter.com/DO2okmYwP1
— – (@AnfieldRd96) October 22, 2020
The best Liverpool player on the day. Fabinho made sure the Reds did not miss van Dijk too much. A top notch acrobatic off the line clearance aside, the Brazilian was always at the beck and call and made sure Adrian did not have too much to do against Ajax. Might become a key player in defence for Klopp in the coming months.
Joe Gomez – 7
Gomez did his job well but could have communicated better with Adrian early on. Commanded the area a decent bit but found it tough to tackle the pace of Promes and other Ajax attackers. Has to step up and be a leader in defence in van Dijk’s absence.
Andrew Robertson – 6
Didn’t do much of note and that was a major part of the reason why Liverpool failed to be as impactful going forward.
James Milner – 7
Tried to be as involved as he could going forward and was one of the better players on the day for Liverpool, especially marauding on the flanks to help overload the attack. But, no end product meant that the Reds came home with just an Ajax own goal to show for their efforts.
Georginio Wijnaldum – 6
Came close to scoring in the second half but could not control the midfield as needed. Was overrun by Ajax’s pressing a lot of times.
Curtis Jones – 6
When Klopp told Curtis Jones he was starting tonight. 😎 pic.twitter.com/lAFEgDE9pw
— Mick Moran (@m1cklfc) October 21, 2020
Handed a big opportunity against an Ajax side that loves to press and also hold possession, Curtis did his job well to try and cope with it. But, the match was a clear indication that Liverpool got lucky and that Klopp cannot afford to field youngsters in high pressure games like this.
Mohamed Salah – 5
If the youngsters failed to an extent, Salah never showed up. The Egyptian seemed to have forgotten to put his scoring boots on for the Ajax fixture and it showed, with his shots not finding the intended target and his runs not syncing well with the balls. Klopp was so miffed with the front three he hacked the entire frontline off in the second half.
Roberto Firmino – 5
Last night was the first time in Jurgen Klopp’s managerial reign that he had taken Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino off together and only the fifth occasion in which all three had all been substituted in the same game. #awlfc [@JamesPearceLFC] pic.twitter.com/juec1Jp2VR
— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) October 22, 2020
Another forward player who disappointed. But, Firmino has been a disappointment all season, with the Brazilian yet to get on the scoresheet for Liverpool in the 2020/21 campaign thus far. Needs to step up if he wants to avoid going down the pecking order.
Sadio Mane – 6
The best performer in the front three, it was his activity and attempt that got Liverpool the goal courtesy of Nicolas Tagliafico.
Jordan Henderson – 5
Came on for Curtis but did not help things as Ajax continued to attack relentlessly in search of an equaliser.
Diogo Jota – 6
Was active after coming on and could very well have had a goal to show for his efforts. Can easily press for a starting spot soon if Firmino continues to disappoint.
Takumi Minamino – 6
Another player who came on and had an impact in the second half. Minamino was active in attack and could have had a goal himself. Tested Andre Onana well on a couple of occasions and seemed to be working in tandem with Jota. Growing into his role at Liverpool.
Xherdan Shaqiri – 4
The ban looks bereft of confidence and some minutes against Ajax did not help. The lack of confidence was visible in his play and it just seems like Shaqiri is waiting for a chance to move on from Liverpool.