This was just what the doctor ordered for Liverpool.
It was notpretty. Far from it, in fact. Victory in Amsterdam came courtesy of the most comedic of own goals, scored by Nicolas Tagliafico 10 minutes before half-time in the Johan Cruyff ArenA.
If luck deserted Liverpool at Goodison Park on Saturday, it was back in their possession here. The big moments went the way of the Premier League champions, with Ajax twice within a whisker of equalising either side of half-time.
First Fabinho denied Dusan Tadic with a wonderful goalline clearance, then Davy Klaassen, briefly of Everton, saw a 20-yarder smash against a post and away to safety. There was also the sight of Adrian, so maligned of late, making two important saves to keep Quincy Promes at bay. Ajax had their chances, for sure.
But after a dark few days, this was the light Liverpool needed. A slender win, achieved due to a gritty, resilient defensive display and sprinkled with a little good fortune.They willtake that, alright.
Without Virgil van Dijk, watching from home with his knee in a brace, Europe wanted to know how the Reds would cope. Klopp said they woulddeal with it, that they would shut their doubters up with their results.
Step one; accomplished.
How reassuring it will have been for the manager to see his side stand firm in such a manner. To see Joe Gomez and Fabinho, the 35thdifferent centre-back pairing he has picked in five years at Anfield, turn in performances like this.
Under the spotlight, those two stood out a mile.
Fabinho’s contribution was immense. Tough and resilient, but able to read the game and pass the ball too, the Brazilian has become one of Liverpool’s most valuable players. Keeping him fit and healthy will be key to their ambitions this season, whether he is playing in defence or midfield.
“He’s a top player, and top players adapt,”James Milner toldBT Sport afterwards.
Gomez, too, deserves credit. The England international has notmade the best start to the season, but he was back on form here. The odd sticky moment aside – he had Adrian to thank for one after just a couple of minutes – the 23-year-old stood up to the test. The clean sheet will have meant the world to him.
To Liverpool, too. Prior to this evening, they had lost eight of their last 14 European away games, and only kept one clean sheet in their last 12 – excluding the 2019 final, played at a neutral venue.
So to come away from this, one of their two most tricky assignments in Group D, with everything they wanted should not be understated. This was a fabulous result, if not a fabulous performance.
There may have been some collateral damage. The sight of Sadio Mane, substituted before the hour mark along with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, with an ice-pack on his right thigh was not welcome at all. Liverpool can ill-afford to lose any more of their gun players right now.
There should be some respite on its way. Alisson Becker, Thiago Alcantara and Joel Matip could all be back soon, while Naby Keita should be fit to feature against Sheffield United at Anfield on Saturday.
Those, though, are for another day. For tonight, Liverpool can reflect on a job well done.
Source : goal.com