Liverpool take off in Champions League against Ajax after Joel Matip’s latest winner, but defensive issues remain

LIVERPOOL, England — Joel Matip scored a late goal for Liverpool to secure victory over Ajax in Champions League Group A on matchday two.

Jurgen Klopp’s side started the game well, then fell apart before their perseverance paid off just before added time when the centre-back headed in to put his side in front.

– Report: Liverpool 2-1 Ajax | Premier League table | Upcoming meetings

It is Ajax’s first defeat of the season as Liverpool find their way back to winning ways after a difficult start to the season in both the Premier League and Europe.

JUMP TO: Player Ratings | Better/worse performers | Highlights & Moments | Postgame Quotes | Key Statistics | Upcoming meetings


Quick reaction

Liverpool are rewarded for their perseverance

Jurgen Klopp described Liverpool’s 4-1 defeat at Napoli last week as the worst game of his seven-year tenure and the Reds responded with a better performance against Ajax, ultimately rewarded for their persistence in a 2- 1. Liverpool deserved the 17th-minute lead given by Mohamed Salah’s 15th Champions League goal at Anfield – surpassing Steven Gerrard’s record – and could easily have been further ahead by the time Ajax fought back.

Mohammed Kudus took his goal superbly against the run of play and Liverpool visibly lost confidence afterwards. Still, despite not being at their best, the hosts kept going and found the breakthrough a minute from time as Joel Matip headed for Kostas Tsimikas’ corner. Klopp looked more relieved than exuberant at the confirmation that the ball had crossed the line. It’s only Liverpool’s fourth win in nine games in all competitions, but it will look like a big step in the right direction.

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Matip capitalizes where Van Dijk could not

Liverpool finished the game with 23 shots but the highest individual number came from an unlikely source: Virgil van Dijk. Ajax’s vulnerability to set pieces – or really any ball high in the box – was evident and the Liverpool centre-back never had better luck than when he was unmarked by delivery from Trent Alexander-Arnold in the 35th minute.

He forced Remko Pasveer into a fine save and worked the Ajax goalkeeper again two minutes before the break when he met Tsimikas’ delivery from the opposite side. Van Dijk managed four efforts in all – but it was Matip who did well – after missing a previous chance – beating Pasveer for his third Champions League goal and first since December 2013 for Schalke. It was also his first game-winning goal since joining Liverpool in 2016.

A sense of deja vu over Liverpool’s defensive weaknesses

The cancellation of last weekend’s Premier League matches due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II may have given Liverpool more time to work on their defence, but the goal they conceded here had a distinct feelings of déjà vu and a failure to learn from past mistakes. Not for the first time this season, Alexander-Arnold was deemed insufficient. Steven Berghuis drifted behind him to remove the ball where Kudus had time to turn around and unleash a superb effort which crashed into Alisson’s crossbar.

The goal bore marked similarities to Jadon Sancho’s first game when Manchester United beat Liverpool 2-1 last month; after another foray down the right from Liverpool, the United winger received the ball in the box and was an age to find the net. Liverpool have finally crossed the line, but the pattern of vulnerability will not have gone unnoticed by their rivals. Without a game until October 1, Klopp will have plenty of time to think about a better way to solve it.


Player ratings

Liverpool: Alisson 6, Alexander-Arnold 6, Matip 7, Van Dijk 6, Tsimikas 7, Elliott 6, Fabinho 6, Thiago 7, Salah 7, Jota 7, Diaz 7.
Subtitles: Nunez 6, Firmino 6, Milner 6, Bajcetic 6.

Ajax: Pasveer 7, Rensch 7, Timber 7, Bassey 7, Blind 7, Alvarez 7, Taylor 7, Tadic 7, Berghuis 7, Bergwijn 6, Kudus 7.
Subtitles: Sanchez 6, Grillitsch 6, Brobbey 6.


Best and Worst Performers

BETTER: Thiago. He used the ball smartly and helped Liverpool keep the pressure on Ajax during their best moments of the game.

WORSE: Elliott. The 19-year-old has been one of Liverpool’s best performers this season but struggled to make a significant impact here and was substituted as Liverpool chased a winner.


Highlights and Moments

Mo Salah is now four goals away from being the most successful African player in Champions League history.

The 22-year-old Ghanaian has scored consecutive goals for Ajax in the Champions League for the first time in his career.

Matip provided the late drama at Anfield.


After the game: What managers, players said

“He doesn’t hesitate, huh? He doesn’t wait long. When he finds a date for that, he can call me. He forgets that in big sports in America, these players have four-month breaks so they are quite happy that they can do some sport during these breaks. It’s completely different in football. What can I say? Imagine that: United players, Liverpool players, Everton players together in one team. It’s not a national team. North versus south. And all the guys from London together, Arsenal, Tottenham, great. Did he really say it? Interesting. – Klopp at the suggestion of the Chelsea owner Todd Boehly from a Premier League All-Star game North vs South


Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

– Mohamed Salah ends a 7-game Champions League drought, the longest of his career.

– Mohammed Kudus has scored 5 goals in his last 4 games for Ajax.

– Joel Matip’s 3rd career goal at UCL and the first since 2013-14 with Schalke. It’s his first game-winning goal since joining Liverpool.


Next

Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp’s side are off to a slow start to the Premier League and Champions League this season, and have a tough run of fixtures ahead, despite their next fixture against Chelsea being postponed. The Reds face Brighton at home on October 1 in the Prem, followed by their next Champions League game against Rangers on October 4 and then a visit to the Emirates on October 9 to face top-flight Arsenal. .

Ajax: The Dutch are off to a winning campaign in the Eredivisie and Europe, with goals galore. They face fourth-placed Alkmaar on September 18 and then struggling Go Ahead Eagles on October 1, followed by a home game against a fiery Champions League side Napoli.

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