Liverpool secured their passage into the last 16 of the Champions League with a game to spare as they comfortably defeated Alfred Schreuder’s Ajax 3-0 at the Amsterdam ArenA in Group A to dump them out of the competition.
Jurgen Klopp’s side came into the game knowing they needed at least a point to progress to the knockout stages. Meanwhile, Ajax knew they had to win to maintain their slim chance of getting out of the group.
The Eredivisie club almost got off to a dream start within three minutes, but Steven Berghuis’ shot from inside the area cannoned back off the right-hand post.
Ajax’s pressure during the first half had Liverpool spooked, but it was the visitors who struck first against the run of play.
Jordan Henderson’s through pass in behind from the left found Mohamed Salah in the box, and the Egyptian dinked the ball over an on-rushing Remko Pasveer to score his sixth Champions League goal of the season to put Liverpool ahead three minutes before half-time.
Liverpool got their second three minutes after the restart, as Darwin Nunez headed in Andy Robertson’s corner from the left-hand side beyond Pasveer to give Ajax a mountain to climb.
They struck again two minutes later as Harvey Elliott latched onto Salah’s through pass, before smashing the ball emphatically into the roof of the net from a tight angle inside the box to seal the win.
TALKING POINT – AJAX NOT CLINICAL AND ARE PUNISHED
If you saw the first half of this game, you’d know that the chances were there for Ajax to take the lead. Once again, it proved to be the case that Schreuder’s side could not capitalise on their openings, as prior to Liverpool’s opening goal in the 42nd minute, Ajax were the team with the better expected goals (xG) value.
Their best chance came in the first couple of minutes, but Steven Berghuis saw his shot smack against the bottom of the right-hand post. Dusan Tadic then came close, but his effort from inside the area was hacked away at the last second as Trent Alexander-Arnold made an important goal-line clearance.
Ajax will now drop into the play-off round in the Europa League, and it is the first time that the Dutch giants have failed to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages since the 2020/21 season.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – ANDY ROBERTSON
After the poor first touch we saw from Robertson in the first-half by the far touchline that completely took the ball out of play despite the fairly simple nature of the pass that he received, there were probably many people that thought that he would go on to have a poor night at left-back. However, his performance for the remainder of the match was top class.
Towards the end of the first half and for much of the second, the Scot found some joy down that left-hand side, and linked up well with Henderson, who would often operate in the left-half space to offer another passing option or a potential overload on that side of the pitch. Robertson also provided the key assist for Nunez’s strike early-on in the second half with a fantastic set-piece delivery.
In total, the 28-year-old completed five key passes during the match – the most of any player on the pitch.
Ajax: Pasveer 5, Sanchez 6, Timber 6, Bassey 6, Blind 6, Klaasen 5, Alvarez 7, Berghuis 6, Bergwijn 6, Tadic 6, Brobbey 6. Subs: Conceicao 6, Taylor 6, Wijndal 6, Kudus 6, Grillitsch 6.
Liverpool: Alisson 7, Alexander-Arnold 8, Gomez 7, van Dijk 7, Robertson 8, Henderson 7, Fabinho 7, Elliott 8, Firmino 7, Nunez 8, Salah 8. Subs: Bajectic 6, Milner 6, Jones 6, Carvalho 6, Tsimikas 6.
3’ – OFF THE POST! – Ajax almost take an early lead, and they really should be in front! Brobbey’s layoff inside the box for Berghuis sees the midfielder try and place the ball into the far corner. His strike sees Alisson beaten, but it cannons back off the bottom of the upright!
36’ – CRITICAL BLOCK! – Ajax have another huge chance! Bergwijn’s low cut-back cross from the right flank finds Tadic in space inside the box, but his effort is blocked brilliantly by Alexander-Arnold who makes a vital interception.
42’ – GOAL! (Mohamed Salah) – That may have been against the run of play but Liverpool will not care! Henderson does brilliantly down the left to play a ball in behind for Salah to chase with the outside of his foot. Pasveer opts to come out, but Salah dinks the ball over him to give the Reds the advantage before half-time!
43’ – NUNEZ HITS THE POST! – Liverpool strike the woodwork! Firmino is unselfish as he squares the ball back across goal for Nunez to tap in at the back post, but somehow he hits the frame of the goal and the ball comes straight back out off the upright! A bit of a sitter.
49’ – GOAL! (Darwin Nunez) – Nunez strikes and gets his goal! Robertson’s cross from the resulting corner is met by a brilliant header from the Uruguayan, who pulls away from his man and nods home beyond Pasveer!
51’ – GOAL! (Harvey Elliott) – It’s a two-minute double salvo for Liverpool and Ajax are capitulating! Salah plays a brilliant through ball ahead for Elliott inside the box. The midfielder is at a tight angle, but he still is able to smash the ball into the roof of the net at the near corner!