Caoimhin Kelleher and Curtis Jones shone brightly as Liverpool beat Ajax 1-0 at Anfield to book a place in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League.
The game had a lively start, with both teams conjuring up decent opportunities. However, it was Liverpool that came the closest to opening the scoring when Curtis Jones struck the woodwork with a curling effort from the edge of the box.
At the other end, Caoimhin Kelleher, making his Champions League debut, pulled off a couple of brilliant stops to deny Davy Klaassen and Noussair Mazraoui before Andrew Robertson went close for the hosts as half-time arrived with the scoreline still at 0-0.
The game continued in similar fashion after half-time as Klaassen missed a great chance, heading a David Neres cross wide while Mazraoui drew another fine save from Kelleher before Curtis Jones capitalised on an error from Andre Onana to put Liverpool in front in the 58th minute.
Substitute Roberto Firmino had a great chance to make it 2-0 but was denied by a fine save from Onana, while Mohamed Salah missed an opportunity soon after. It almost came to bite back at Liverpool late in the game but Kelleher pulled off another fine stop to deny Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s header as the Reds held on for a narrow victory at Anfield.
Here’s how we rated the performances of Jurgen Klopp’s men against Ajax on Tuesday night.
Caoimhin Kelleher: 9/10
𝗪𝗢𝗪. 𝗝𝗨𝗦𝗧 𝗪𝗢𝗪.
Stellar showing from Kelleher today 🔥 pic.twitter.com/0A7PC9nCWA
— Liverpool FC USA (@LFCUSA) December 1, 2020
Thrown into the deep end after Alisson became unavailable, the 22-year-old Irishman rose to the occasion, making a clutch of important saves to keep Liverpool’s noses in front throughout the game. His stop to deny Huntelaar late in the game was a particular standout moment. Showed good command in the box and distributed well too. A European debut to remember for Kelleher.
Neco Williams: 7/10
An improvement on his recent performance against Brighton, but there were moments which showed that the Welshman still has a long way to go. Positioning wasn’t always accurate, which left space open on his flank while his passing, too, could have been better. Nevertheless, showed great endeavour throughout and got the assist for the only goal of the game.
Joel Matip: 7/10
Back into the starting XI after being rested at the weekend, the Cameroonian organised things well at the back and kept a close watch on the wily Dusan Tadic, while covering for Williams when needed. Held firm as Ajax pushed for the equaliser, finishing the game with two successful tackles, two aerial duels won and three clearances.
📊 | Fabinho vs Ajax:
89.5% passing accuracy
8 clearances (most)
1 blocked shot
2/2 tackles won
5 long balls completed
100% aerial duels won
1 key pass
One of the best CB's in the entire world. pic.twitter.com/3DxYEHxlAq
— The Anfield Buzz (@TheAnfieldBuzz) December 1, 2020
Apart from one hairy moment when he got caught under a long ball in the first half, the Brazilian was an assured presence at the back for Liverpool. Made a number of crucial interceptions and blocks to snuff out any threat, while finishing with a game-high eight clearances. Passed well from the back, with one long ball putting Sadio Mane through in the first half.
Andrew Robertson: 7/10
Soldiered on after an early injury scare and provided a decent outlet down the left flank. Almost caught Onana out at his near post at the end of the first period. A bit subdued after the break but held the fort down to ensure that Liverpool got the clean sheet.
Curtis Jones: 9/10
Back into the starting XI, the teenager seemed likeliest to break the deadlock in the first half, testing Onana before hitting the woodwork. His moment came in the second half as he capitalised on some lazy goalkeeping from the Ajax custodian to hit the ball into the back of an open net from a tight angle, to score his first goal in the Champions League.
Curtis Jones' game by numbers against Ajax:
Most shots (4)
Joint-most aerial duels (5)
Joint-most take-ons completed (2)
Most shots on target (2)
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 1, 2020
Worked hard off the ball as well, making a couple of clearances and interceptions, while winning four defensive aerials. A night to remember for the young Jones, who is swiftly growing into a key member of this Liverpool unit.
Jordan Henderson: 7/10
The Liverpool skipper was back into the starting XI and the difference he made was palpable. Pressed the opposition with intensity, screened the defence well, while keeping things ticking smoothly when in possession. Played three key passes on the night – the joint-highest for the game, while also effecting three interceptions.
Georginio Wijnaldum: 7/10
A disciplined performance from the Dutchman as he went about his job with his usual energy and industry. Worked hard when not in possession and tried to break up play in the middle, pulling off a game-high four interceptions. Used the ball well, misplacing just four of his passes on the night. Solid, if not spectacular.
Mohamed Salah: 6.5/10
A rather quiet first period for the Egyptian speedster, apart from a neat lay-off to Jones which led to the youngster hitting the post. Looked much more dangerous as the game opened up after half-time, making a couple of darting runs forward. Had a couple of decent opportunities but was denied by Onana on one occasion and missed the other. Created a chance for Firmino between those two moments.
Diogo Jota: 6/10
Liverpool’s man in form had a quiet outing by the standards he has set for himself early in his stint at the club. Playing through the middle, Jota made some good runs and helped create a few chances, but his touch let him down on multiple occasions. Things did not quite work for the Portuguese and he was taken off with a little over twenty minutes left.
Sadio Mane: 6.5/10
Much like Salah, a game of hits and misses for Mane. Caused problems with his pace and directness, getting the better of Mazraoui and Perr Schuurs, who has been linked with Liverpool, with one such run getting the latter booked. There were moments when his decision-making could have been a tad better but did manage to play two key passes.
Roberto Firmino: 6/10
Came on for Jota in the 68th minute. Worked hard off the ball, offered an outlet. Could have made it 2-0 if not for a good save from Onana.
Rhys Williams: N/A
Late substitute for Salah as Klopp looked to shut up shop.