Liverpool bounced back from their disastrous defeat to SSC Napoli to beat a spirited Ajax team at Anfield in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening.
Mohamed Salah opened the scoring for the Reds before they were pegged back by a thunderous strike from Mohammed Kudus. After a frustrating second half, defender Joel Matip popped up in the dying embers of the game to give Jurgen Klopp’s men the all-important three points.
As expected, after the disappointment of last week’s game, Liverpool shot out of the blocks in the opening 20 minutes, taking the lead through Salah. The Egyptian superstar raced in behind Daley Blind and, after being found by Diogo Jota with a deft pass, coolly slotted past Remko Pasveer in the Ajax goal.
It was so nearly two moments later when a poor headed clearance fell kindly to Luis Diaz just inside the penalty area. Having controlled the ball well with his chest, Diaz’s subsequent strike on goal was slightly wayward, just going wide.
A few minutes later the other member of Liverpool’s attacking three came close to scoring, drilling a shot from 25 yards wide of the post.
After that flurry of chances, however, it was Ajax who would score next. The goal would come following some lax defending from Trent Alexander-Arnold, who allowed a simple ball in behind to find Steven Berghuis who then pulled the ball back to Kudus. The 22-year-old, after controlling, cannoned the ball past Alisson and into the roof of the net, punishing Alexander-Arnold for some shockingly poor defending.
The Reds continued to press forward after conceding, with their next chance falling to Virgil van Dijk. The towering centre-back wriggled free of his marker and managed to get his head on a TAA corner kick, but his resulting effort on goal was well saved by Pasveer.
Pasveer was once again called into action before half-time, saving two strikes from Alexander-Arnold in quick succession to keep the game level going into the break.
Liverpool somewhat lost their way offensively at the start of the second half as Ajax began to find a few more ways to stifle their attacks before they developed. Key to the visitors’ improvement in the defensive third proved to be Calvin Bassey, who came to his side’s rescue with blocks and interceptions time and time again.
Despite the Reds having most of the ball, Ajax would be the team who’d come closest to breaking the deadlock in the 75th minute. Some brilliant work from Dusan Tadic on the right flank culminated in the former Southampton man chipping the ball to the back post and into the path of Daley Blind who, despite being unmarked and about six yards from goal, headed over the crossbar.
That Blind chance seemed to wake Liverpool up a bit in the final third as substitute Darwin Nunez would then spurn a great chance to give Liverpool the lead in the 83rd minute. A quick bit of interplay between Nunez and Salah on the edge of the box led to the former having a first-time strike on goal from 15 yards out, but said strike was rather tame and rolled wide of Pasveer’s left post. Moments later Nunez was in the thick of the action again, this time turning provider for Diaz who was just unable to get his foot on a low drilled cross along the six-yard box.
The goal would finally come for Liverpool in the 89th minute, as Joel Matip rose highest to nod home a Tsimikas header and earn his side a vital win.
Here’s how the Liverpool players rated on the night:
GK – Alisson Becker – 5/10 – Distribution was good all evening. He could do nothing about the goal. No one could’ve.
RB – Trent Alexander-Arnold – 2/10 – So, so poor for Kudus’ goal. Sunday League level defending from an England international.
CB – Joel Matip – 8/10 – Decent on the ball throughout and then popped up with the winner.
CB – Virgil van Dijk – 6/10 – Denied a goal by a fine save from Pasveer in the first half. A threat from set pieces all night.
LB – Kostas Tsimikas – 7/10 – Set up with the winner with a fantastic corner kick delivery.
CM – Harvey Elliott – 5/10 – Still finding his feet in the Liverpool midfield. He looks a player, but needs time to settle and needs to improve defensively.
CM – Fabinho – 5/10 – A pretty standard Fabinho performance.
CM – Thiago Alcantara – 7/10 – Liverpool are an infinitely better team when he plays. It’s shame his injury record is so patchy.
RW – Mohamed Salah – 6/10 – Scored a much-needed goal after a difficult start to the season. Faded in the second half.
ST – Diogo Jota – 5/10 – Back in the starting XI and repaid his manager by setting up the opener. Really struggled to find space in and around the penalty area after that though.
LW – Luis Diaz – 5/10 – Spurned a decent chance to double his side’s lead in the first half. Worked hard but lacked the end product on the night.
SUB – Roberto Firmino – 4/10 – Quiet cameo.
SUB – Darwin Nunez – 4/10 – Spurned a great chance when he came on.
SUB – James Milner – N/A.
SUB – Stefan Bajcetic – N/A.