Liverpool 1-0 Ajax
Champions League Group Stage (5), Anfield
December 1, 2020
Jones 58′ (assist – N.Williams)
It wouldn’t be a Liverpool game without a high-profile injury this season, and before the game Jurgen Klopp was dealt the blow of a hamstring problem for Alisson, which handed Caoimhin Kelleher an unlikely start in the Champions League.
With the Reds needing at least a draw to secure early qualification for the last 16, the start of the game was encouragingly open, with Jones striking the post with his second of two long-range shots within six minutes.
Andy Robertson required strapping to his left foot after an awkward coming together midway through the half, adding further to Klopp’s concerns as the last man standing from his regular first-choice back four.
Perr Schuurs avoided a red card for a last-man challenge on the onrushing Sadio Mane, with the Senegalese heading the subsequent free-kick into the palms of Andre Onana, while at the other end Kelleher made a series of impressive stops.
The 22-year-old also showcased a real composure on the ball and sharp anticipation to mop up long passes from the opposition, with there a possibility he leapfrogs Adrian as No. 2.
HT: Liverpool 0-0 Ajax
- Kelleher becomes youngest Liverpool keeper to start in CL since Carson
- Jones notches winner as Reds’ third-youngest scorer in CL history
- Neco assist makes it first CL goal in which two LFC teenagers combined
- Liverpool qualify for last 16; Midtjylland trip now a dead-rubber
An early chance in the second half saw ex-Everton midfielder Davy Klaassen head David Neres’ cross wide at the near post, while a smart ball from Jordan Henderson sprang Mane into space, only to be thwarted by Noussair Mazraoui.
Kelleher was required to make another strong save to keep out Antony’s low effort, with Neres then hammering the follow-up against the post as the pressure mounted on Liverpool.
And then it was released, as Neco Williams cut onto his left and lofted a hopeful cross towards the back post, and with Onana somehow leaving himself stranded, Jones was on hand to turn it in at the back post.
Ajax’s confidence contrived to be a weakness as their approach to passing out from the back caught them out on a number of occasions, with Liverpool growing in confidence following Jones’ opener.
A stunning team move saw Roberto Firmino force a great save from Onana, and at the other end, Kelleher made a sensational stop to keep Klaas-Jan Huntelaar out from point-blank range, seeing the Reds through to the last 16 as winners of Group D.
TIA Man of the Match: Curtis Jones
Referee: Tobias Stieler (GER)
Liverpool: Kelleher; N.Williams, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Jones; Salah (R.Williams 90′), Mane, Jota (Firmino 68′)
Subs not used: Adrian, Jaros, Tsimikas, Cain, Clarkson, Minamino, Origi
Ajax: Onana; Mazraoui (Huntelaar 86′), Schuurs, Blind (Martinez 86′), Tagliafico; Klaasen, Gravenberch, Alvarez (Labyad 69′); Neres, Antony, Tadic
Subs not used: Stekelenburg, Scherpen, Ekkelenkamp, Klaiber, Timber, Promes, Traore