Liverpool take off in Champions League against Ajax after Joel Matip’s last-gasp winner, but defensive problems remain

LIVERPOOL, England — Joel Matip scored a late goal for Liverpool on Matchday 2 to secure a win over Ajax in Group A of the Champions League.

Jürgen Klopp’s team started the game well, but then fizzled out in front of theirs persistence paid off just before injury time when the centre-back put his side in front.

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This is Ajax’s first defeat of the season as Liverpool bounce back from a difficult start to the season in both the Premier League and Europe.

GO TO: Player Ratings | Best/worst performance | Highlights and Notable Moments | Quotes after the game | Key Statistics | Upcoming appointments


Fast reaction

Liverpool are being rewarded for their perseverance

Jurgen Klopp described Liverpool’s 4-1 defeat at Napoli last week as their worst game of their seven-year tenure and the Reds responded with an improved performance against Ajax, whose perseverance was ultimately rewarded in a 2-1 win. Liverpool earned the 17th-minute lead given to them by Mohamed Salah’s 15th Champions League goal at Anfield – surpassing Steven Gerrard’s record – and could easily have been further ahead as Ajax hit back.

Mohammed Kudus scored his goal brilliantly against the flow of play and Liverpool lost a lot of confidence afterwards. Despite not being at their best, the home side pushed on and broke through with a minute remaining when Joel Matip headed in Kostas Tsimikas’ corner. Klopp looked relieved rather than exuberant as he confirmed the ball had crossed the line. This is just Liverpool’s fourth win in nine games in all competitions, but it will feel like a big step in the right direction.

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Matip uses where Van Dijk couldn’t

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

He forced a fine save from Remko Pasveer and worked the Ajax keeper again two minutes before the break when he met Tsimikas’ delivery from the other end. Van Dijk had four tries in total – but it was Matip who came on well – having missed an earlier chance of his own – beating Pasveer for his third Champions League goal and first for Schalke since December 2013. It was also his first winner since joining Liverpool in 2016.

A sense of deja vu over Liverpool’s defensive weaknesses

The cancellation of last weekend’s Premier League games 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 sense of deja vu and failure to learn from past mistakes. Not for the first time this season, Alexander-Arnold has been found weak. Steven Berghuis edged in behind him to pull the ball back where Kudus had time to turn and unleash a great shot that slammed into Alisson’s crossbar.

The goal bore striking similarities to Jadon Sancho’s opener when Manchester United beat Liverpool 2-1 last month; After another foray into Liverpool’s right side, the United winger received the ball in the box and had an age to find the net. Liverpool ultimately got themselves over the line but the pattern of vulnerability will not have gone unnoticed by their rivals. With no game now until October 1, Klopp will have plenty of time to think about a better solution.


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.
Subtitle: 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.
Subtitle: Sanchez 6, Grillitsch 6, Brobbey 6.


Best and worst performers

BEST: Thiago. He used the ball intelligently and helped Liverpool keep the pressure on Ajax during their best moments in the game.

WORST: Eliot. The 19-year-old has been one of Liverpool’s better players this season but has struggled to make a meaningful impression here and was substituted as Liverpool were chasing a winner.


Highlights and notable moments

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

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

Matip provided late drama at Anfield.


After the game: what the managers, players said

“He doesn’t hesitate, eh? He doesn’t wait long. If he finds an appointment for this, he can call me. He forgets that in the major sports in America these players have four months off, so they’re quiet happy to be able to do some exercise during those breaks. It’s very different in football. What can I say? Imagine this: United players, Liverpool players, Everton players all together in one team. It’s not a national team. north to south. And all Londoners together, Arsenal, Tottenham, great. Did he really say that? Interesting.” – Klopp on Chelsea owner Todd Boehly’s proposal for an all-star game between North and South of the Premier League


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 UCL goal and first since 2013-14 with Schalke. This is his first winner since joining Liverpool.


Next

Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp’s side have gotten off to a slow start this season in both the Premier League and Champions League and have tough games ahead of them despite the next game against Chelsea being postponed. The Reds meet Brighton at home in the Prem on October 1, followed by their next Champions League game against Rangers on October 4 and a visit to the Emirates on October 9 to take on Arsenal, who are at the top of the table.

ajax: The Dutch are starting a triumphal march in the Eredivisie and in Europe, in which there is no shortage of goals. They meet fourth-placed Alkmaar on September 18, then struggling side Go Ahead Eagles on October 1, followed by a home game against a heated Napoli side in the Champions League

https://www.espn.com/soccer/blog-the-match/story/4745486/liverpool-take-off-in-champions-league-against-ajax-after-joel-matips-last-gasp-winnerbut-defensive-problems-remain Liverpool take off in Champions League against Ajax after Joel Matip’s last-gasp winner, but defensive problems remain

Emma Bowman

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