Liverpool’s Joel Matip headed an 89th-minute winner as last season’s runners-up came off late to beat Ajax Amsterdam 2-1 in their Champions League Group A match at Anfield on Tuesday. Juergen Klopp’s side had lost their opening group game 4-1 at Napoli and were heading for another disappointing result until the centre-back rose to meet a corner kick that appeared to be cleared off the line , but the assistant referee raised his flag to indicate a goal.
It was an improved performance from the English side but still well below their best. Mohamed Salah put the home side ahead in the 17th minute after being picked off by Diogo Jota, the Egyptian beating Ajax goalkeeper Remko Pasveer with a trademark finish.
But the lead only lasted 10 minutes before Ajax equalized with a superb strike from Mohammed Kudus who carved himself some space in the box before hammering the ball into the top corner. Liverpool responded well to the backhand with Virgil van Dijk forcing Pasveer into action with a firm header from a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner in the 35th minute.
Alexander-Arnold then went close himself – bursting into the inside right channel, he clipped his left foot inside and shot directly at Pasveer’s chest, then the Ajax keeper reacted well to prevent follow-up fire. Liverpool enjoyed most of the pressure after the break but Ajax full-back Daley Blind wasted a great chance to put the Dutch in front when he was unmarked at the far post but s is headed away.
Substitute Darwin Nunez should have won the game for Liverpool in the 83rd minute after being slipped by Salah, but the Uruguay striker missed his shot from an excellent position inside the box. A deflected effort from Salah then hit the front post, from the resulting Kostas Tsimikas corner Matip rose to head in the winner.
Liverpool will be relieved simply to have secured all three points in the table after a difficult start to the season and their disastrous display at Napoli. “It’s a first step, a very important step,” Klopp said.
“I think everyone could see that we understood and had to make a completely different change (to Napoli). The boys did. We played a lot of good things against tough opposition. Scored the first goal and should ‘I scored more goals, especially from set pieces,’ he said. Ajax coach Alfred Schreuder said his side struggled to cope with the “intensity” of Liverpool.
“It’s not a disaster, but we have to learn from it,” he said. “We are still developing. There are several guys who haven’t played these kinds of matches. It’s very good for them,” he added.
There will also have been some relief among Liverpool officials and the wider English football community that there were no chants or boos during the pre-match tribute to Queen Elizabeth . It was feared that some Liverpool fans, who booed Prince William at Wembley Stadium in May, were observing the ‘period of silence’.
There were no serious disturbances although a few isolated shouts broke the silence which lasted only 25 seconds, instead of the usual minute. (Editing by Toby Davis)
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