Liverpool booked their place in the Champions League last 16 with a professional 3-0 win over Ajax in Amsterdam.
Ajax 0-3 Liverpool
Champions League Group Stage (5)
Johan Cruyff ArenA
Wednesday, 26 October 2022
Salah 42′ (assist: Henderson)
Nunez 49′ (assist: Robertson)
Elliott 52′ (assist: Salah)
The first half an hour wasn’t convincing, but the eventual result was, as Liverpool qualified for the knockout stages for the sixth consecutive season – and with a game to spare.
It was a move away from the recent use of 4-4-2, with Nunez on the left, Firmino central but dropping deep, and Salah on the right. Some might call it a ‘4-4-2 diamond’ shape.
One thing that didn’t change was Liverpool’s habit of giving the opposition golden chances immediately, with Steven Berghuis hitting the post inside three minutes when he should have scored.
It was a frenetic start, with the home side knowing only a win would keep them in with a chance to progress to the knockout stages.
Liverpool managed to take the sting out of the game but they still looked very open.
The home side had another clear-cut chance which wasn’t taken by Dusan Tadic, with Alexander-Arnold making a block with the Reds’ defence outnumbered. A familiar sight this season.
Somewhat against the run of play, Liverpool took the lead when Jordan Henderson played a superb pass with the outside of his left foot for Salah, who expertly lifted the ball over the admittedly poorly-positioned Ajax ‘keeper.
It should have been 2-0 soon after when a good move ended with Firmino squaring the ball across goal, only for Nunez to somehow hit the post from six yards out.
Half time: Ajax 0-1 Liverpool
- Salah opener in first half
- Nunez & Elliott score in 3 minutes after break
- Reds qualify for last 16 for sixth season in a row
- Final group game vs. Napoli next Tuesday
It was a much better start to the second half, with Nunez heading in Robertson’s corner four minutes after the break then Elliott firing home at the near post from a superb Salah pass three minutes later.
The Johan Cruyff ArenA echoed to the sound of the travelling Kop singing Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, traditionally an Ajax song, bringing back memories of Liverpool’s Europa League run in Klopp’s first season.
The quickfire goals killed the game, with the home side knowing they were heading out of the competition. It also allowed Liverpool to make subs and rest some legs.
The only negative on the night was a potential injury for Henderson, the captain getting a knock on the knee before being replaced.
Overall, it was an ideal night in Europe, qualifying for the last 16 with a game to spare – which arrives against Napoli at Anfield next Tuesday. A 3-0 win would be required to top the group, so likely offers a chance for Klopp to rotate some players.
TIA Man of the Match: Mo Salah
Referee: Jose Maria Sanchez (ESP)
Subs not used: Adrian, Kelleher, Konate, Phillips, Ramsay
Missing: Arthur (thigh), Diaz (knee), Jota (calf), Matip (foot), Thiago (ear infection), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keita (both ineligible)
Ajax: Pasveer; Sanchez, Timber, Bassey, Blind; Alvarez, Berghuis, Klaassen; Bergwijn, Tadic, Brobbey
Subs: Stekelenburg, Gorter, Wijndal, Taylor, Ocampos, Rensch, Lucca, Kudus, Grillitsch, Magallan, Conceicao
Next Match: Leeds (home, Saturday 29 October)