Never in doubt.
Liverpool v Ajax at Anfield for the first time since 1966; our guests are true European royalty, with as many European Cups on their CV as Manchester and London combined.
The champagne corks were a-popping in the @Dutch household as the hamstrung Alisson was replaced by Kelleher, thereby almost certainly signalling the end of the Spanish veteran’s stint at Anfield. I’m not one of those who slams our players (although Paul Fucking Konchensky was absolute fucking toilet) and Adrián played
well early last season but the mistakes were becoming more frequent and the end, for him, is nigh.
The return of Captain Fantastic in the holding role meant more freedom for Gini and Jones in front of him; Jota replaced Bobby up front. Neco Williams retained his place at right back, despite making it no further than half time against Brighton on Saturday afternoon; fair dues to the management team for not letting keyboard warriors affect their decision making.
Many eyes would have been on Perr Schuurs, the Ajax central defender who has been linked with a move to Liverpool lately. He had a decent game, and one should never judge a player on a single match, but looked a bit “meh” to me, despite many of the posters in the match thread raving about his performance. I’m not sure he’d be worth the reported £27m and, quite frankly, would rather give Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams the chance to prove themselves until the end of the season. Still, in Klopp we trust.
A feeble effort against Atalanta last week meant that the Tricky Reds needed at least a point tonight to guarantee qualification from the group and many would have expected a more attacking start from the hosts. Instead, it was Ajax who were on the front foot as they dominated possession and forced our young goalkeeper (I refuse to call him Queev) into a handful of decent saves. Our best early chance fell to young Curtis, whose sweetly struck shot smashed against the right post in the sixth minute.
That was about as interesting as the first half got; as the lads trudged off for their half time oranges, there can’t have been many Liverpool supporters too impressed by the fact that the visitors had almost two-thirds of the possession and that we had only created one decent chance.
Klaassen missed a good chance early in the second half, his header from Neres’ cross drifting harmlessly wide. Mazraoui then forced Kelleher into a fine save and I’m not sure how Neres failed to tuck away the rebound. Seconds later, Jones scored our 50th European goal at home under Klopp as he snuck in unmarked at the far post and cushioned Williams’ cross into an empty net after Onana decided, inexplicably, to leave it. The visiting ‘keeper may have thought that the ball had drifted out of play but, as my school coaches always taught me, you play until the whistle.
Salah missed a glorious double chance to seal the game, Schuurs denying him first and then Onana smothering his second attempt. Mo hasn’t been at his best lately; maybe his brother’s wedding has played on his mind both before and after the event? Anyway, let’s hope that normal service will be resumed shortly.
A special mention to Kelleher, who had a fine game. He made a couple of very important saves and his distribution was generally excellent; Henderson had to have a word with him early in the second have and that appeared to have the desired effect and the young goalie didn’t put a foot wrong after that. His outstanding reflex save from Huntelaar’s bullet header in the 88th minute was the icing on the cake. The fact that Jürgen congratulated our young goalie first at the final whistle said it all.
So we are through as group winners; surely we will play the kids or put certain players “in the shop window” for our last group game against Midtjylland next week. Next up in the league is the visit of Wolves to Anfield on Sunday night. A whole five days off; hopefully, we’ll be fully rested and ready to go top of the league again.
MOTM: James Reed. In another attempt to make my wines more accessible (ie cheaper), I’d like to doff my cap to Tesco’s wine buying manager. Since his appointment earlier this year, their range has improved significantly and there are some real bargains to be had; their Tesco Finest Cahors is an absolute steal at £8 or so. Try it with Tesco Finest Reblochon, Ossau Iraty and Parmigiano Reggiano (it’s not just for grating!) for the best cheeseboard available on the high street at the moment.