Jurgen Klopp admitted his side weren’t quite at their free-flowing best as Liverpool ground out a 1-0 win over Ajax in the Champions League on Wednesday evening.
The Reds went into the game still smarting from the news that influential defender Virgil Van Dijk is set for an extended spell on the sidelines following his ACL injury picked up in the Merseyside derby, as a result of Jordan Pickford’s reckless challenge. With the Dutchman absent as well as summer signing Thiago and central defender Joel Matip, the away side appeared a little makeshift, Brazilian Fabinho slotting in at the heart of defence while young Curtis Jones made his full Champions League debut in midfield.
Those changes did appear to unsettle the visitors in the early proceedings in Amsterdam as Ajax looked increasingly threatening in attack, with stand-in stopper Adrian doing little to quieten the doubters after some worrying decisions with the ball at his feet.
In what was an end to end first-half Liverpool grew into the game and finally finally broke the deadlock, Ajax defender Nicolas Tagliafico comically turning into his own net following a Sadio Mane effort just minutes after Adrian had denied Quincy Promes from close range. The hosts continued to look lively, however, former Southampton man Dusan Tadic seeing his chipped effort acrobatically cleared off the line by Fabinho.
The second period was a much quieter affair with the away side making numerous substitutions, with Dutch midfielder Gini Wijnaldum coming closest to extending Liverpool’s lead with a header late in the second half. The hosts continued to push right until the last whistle, yet Jurgen Klopp’s men hung on for what was a hard-fought victory in their opening group stage fixture.
Thank you Amsterdam. Goodnight. pic.twitter.com/qhxQRqzWmS
— Trent Alexander-Arnold (@TrentAA) October 21, 2020
Despite being forced to hang on in the end for victory, Reds boss Klopp was “happy” that his side did “enough to win the game”, although the German did admit that neither side was at their best, with the pitch playing a crucial factor in the quality of the game.
“It was good enough to win the game. That’s what you need,” Klopp told BT Sport.
”I think both teams could play better football. At moments it was wild. The pitch was deep and muddy. Three days ago it looked completely different and in training yesterday it looked different.
“But we did not take our chances which was a shame. Ajax had a big one which hit the post. When you’re 1-0 up, these things can happen.
”But overall I’m happy with the game. It was not sunshine football but we wanted three points and we got it.”
Liverpool host winless Sheffield United next in the Premier League on Saturday.