Never in doubt.
The injuries to Virgil, Thiago, Matip and Henderson led to a much-juggled starting XI for our opening champions league match of the new campaign, with Fabinho moving into the heart of the defence and Curtis Jones earning his first CL start alongside Ribenaman in midfield.
Our makeshift Brazilian centre half made a couple of solid early challenges, the second of which resulted in Mané breaking but unable to pick out Salah with the crucial pass. The Ajax forwards were clearly instructed to press our defenders, with Gomez short of form and Fabinho new to the position; Neres, in particular, was buzzing around incessantly.
The much-maligned Adrián produced a fine save with an outstretched leg to deny Promes; it was a poor miss by the former Manchester United player, as he would have scored if he’d put it to either side of the keeper.
Moments later, the Reds took the lead as Mané turned his marker inside out before scuffing his shot. The effort was going well wide- possibly even out for a throw- but Tahliafico stuck out a leg and diverted the ball past a stranded Onana. The visitors were in a lead they had hardly deserved.
Tagliafico yhen made amends for his own goal by brilliantly intercepting a slide-rule pass from Bobby that would have set Mo free on goal. Robertson made a good run down the left but couldn’t provide the right ball for the Egyptian; Fabinho then came up with an outstanding goal-line clearance to deny Tadic, after the Serbian lobbed Adrián.
Jones, who had had a quiet half and was lucky to get away with an elbow to , was taken off at half time and replaced by the captain. Henderson was clearly meant to add a bit of steel to a midfield which had been overrun at times. Klaasen’s first-time long-range effort almost started the second half with a bang but cannoned off the post; Adrián made another good save from Mazraoui’s drive.
Making the most of the new five subs rule in this season’s competition, Jürgen hauled off the entire front three on the hour mark and brought on Jota, Shaqiri and Minamino. No doubt this was to rest the front three before our league game against Sheffield United at Anfield on Saturday evening, but it was good to see the replacement players get a good half hour of European football.
Jota and Minamino were very industrious and the Portuguese international’s skills are something to behold; the way Bobby has been out of form for a while now, his place in the “first team” must surely be under threat?
Fab was, well, fab in his new role and Adrián, despite the usual moments of panic (including at the very end), made some vital saves. Millie put in a real shift and fully deserved his rest as Rhys Williams was brought on to shore up the defence in stoppage time as the home side threw caution to the wind. Gini also had a solid game- our midfield strength in depth really is superb.
A far more satisfying result, then, than on our only previous visit to Amsterdam to play Ajax, way back in 1966, when we lost 5-1. Three points away is always a good way to start the group; next up, as mentioned earlier, are Sheffield United on Saturday. As a quick reminder, stand up to Sky and DO NOT fork out the £15 pay per view charge. Please donate to FoodbankFC instead. Thank you.
MOTM: Sadiq Khan, for calling out Bozo as the barefaced liar that he is.