Following Liverpool’s thrashing in Naples, it was vital that Jurgen Klopp’s side responded with a completely different performance at home to Ajax. This game all of a sudden became a must win for Liverpool as you can not drop points in both of your opening two games of what is considered a tricky Champions League group.
Prior to the game, there was a period of silence due to the passing of the Queen. I wanted to make this perfectly clear as I have read all sorts of nonsense regarding the Liverpool fans across social media overnight. Anfield is a stadium with a capacity of 54,000. Without getting too political, a lot of Liverpool fans do not support the monarchy & they have their reasons for their stance.
However, I can confirm that the vast majority of the supporters inside Anfield last night did what was expected of them & respected the silence. Of course there was a very small minority of people who didn’t listen to Jurgen Klopp & Liverpool icon Sir Kenny Dalglish’s request to be respectful, but it was a very small minority. In fact on the video clips surfacing, you can even hear how isolated the shouts are. Those extremely few individuals should not be allowed to speak for the whole fanbase. Suggestions that Liverpool fans ‘are a disgrace!’ are far from the truth. Like I say, the vast majority of fans inside the stadium observed the period of silence & made the club proud.
Liverpool’s first big chance came in the 17th minute, which also resulted in the first goal of the night. Alisson Becker’s precise long ball met the head of Luis Diaz who knocked it down for Diogo Jota. Jota takes one touch to get around the defender, then another touch to play Mohamed Salah in on goal. The Egyptian takes a touch to get the ball out of his feet, and his second touch is the shot which was slotted to the keepers left. Thiago ran off to celebrate with Alisson as his fantastic long ball up the pitch is what ultimately led to the opening goal.
Ajax quickly responded with some good attacking play. A chance for them came almost instantly after conceding. Steven Berghuis found himself one on one with Alisson, but after his strike hit the bar & went out of play, the linesman’s flag was raised.
The game turned into a bit of an end affair with Liverpool creating another goal scoring opportunity, as Luis Diaz found himself with a brilliant goal scoring opportunity, but dragged his shot wide.
Ajax continued to cause problems playing the ball down Liverpool’s right hand side. The only time Liverpool defended poorly across the whole 90 minutes led to Ajax’s equaliser. Alexander-Arnold was caught too high up the pitch, but there was no cover for him. Joel Matip & Virgil Van Dijk were left with three attackers to mark between the two of them. Bergwijn sets up Mohammed Kudus who fires his shot high past Alisson’s right as it cannons off the post & goes in. There is nothing that the goal keeper could have done about it.
Liverpool’s response to conceding was a good one & not something that we have seen too much this season. They didn’t seem to let it phase them, and dusted themselves down instantly. They had three more big chances before the half ended, two of them falling to Virgil Van Dijk from two excellent crosses from Alexander-Arnold & Kostas Tsimikas from corners. Trent Alexander-Arnold also found himself in on goal after some brilliant play from Joel Matip carrying the ball forward to find Luis Diaz, who slots in Alexander-Arnold. He cuts inside onto his weaker foot & his strike is saved by Pasveer.
In the 2nd half, Liverpool continued to fight with everything. They continued to press all over the pitch which is something we haven’t quite seen in Liverpool’s game in the last few weeks. More chances were created, but the ball just wouldn’t go in, until in the 89th minute…
Kostas Tsimikas whips in yet another excellent cross from the corner, and it meets the head of Joel Matip. It appeared that an Ajax defender cleared the ball off the line, but the referee's watch signalled that the ball crossed the line & when you watch the goal back, you can clearly see it crosses the goal line. Anfield erupted as the players celebrated with Liverpool supporters in The Kop.
This was a huge win for Liverpool. Make absolutely no mistake about it. If Liverpool hadn’t won yesterday, the question of Europa League football may have been asked by Liverpool fans. The performance in general was far closer to the Liverpool that the supporters know & love. Not perfect by any means, but a significant improvement on previous week. You could see every player working their socks off for the ball out of possession, and heads didn’t drop as chances went begging.
My Man of The Match?
The main factor for all of this was Thiago coming back into the side. Thiago Alcantara is special, and his influence in this current Liverpool side should never be underestimated. The difference in performances when he isn’t playing is scary. But last night he dropped an Anfield masterclass on the biggest stage, and was my personal man of the match. From his work off the ball to win back possession, to slicing open Ajax’s midfield, he did everything. Liverpool just simply don’t have another midfielder anywhere near close to him, so keeping him fit will be integral for Liverpool’s hopes of winning silverware this season.
Also a huge shout out to Joel Matip who also came back into the starting line-up. When Joel Matip plays, you can see the difference in Liverpool’s back line. He brings out the best of Virgil Van Dijk as they have built a tremendous partnership over the years. Liverpool’s back line looked so assured (bar the goal that they conceded) and again, it was refreshing to watch. Joel Matip is still severely underrated by the wider football world & it’s about time he gets the credit that he deserves.