Joel Matip scored a last-gasp winner as Liverpool gave their season a huge lift with a 2-1 victory over Ajax in a Champions League Group A contest at Anfield where the crowd paid tribute to the late Queen.
Jurgen Klopp had spoken of needing a response from his side following the 4-1 defeat at Napoli last week and they made a strong start.
Mohamed Salah opened the scoring on 17 minutes when he rifled home after good play by Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota to net his first goal in eight appearances in the competition.
Diaz and Salah both went close to doubling the lead, but the visitors silenced Anfield just 10 minutes later when Mohammed Kudus finished off a neat move down the left by hammering a strike in off the underside of the crossbar.
Liverpool dominated throughout the second half but Jota and Virgil van Dijk failed to make the most of a couple of half chances.
Ajax rarely threatened on the counter attack but could have gone in front 14 minutes from the end when Daley Blind flashed a header inches wide of the far post.
The home side continued to push and clinched the points when Matip nodded in a left-wing corner in the 89th minute.
The result means Napoli, Liverpool and Ajax all have three points in Group A, although the Italian side can pull clear at the summit if they win their clash at Rangers on Wednesday.
Liverpool will not return to action until after the international break following the postponement of their match at Chelsea at the weekend. Ajax are back in Eredivise action on Sunday when they travel to AZ Alkmaar.
Relief for Liverpool. It has been an indifferent start to the season for the Merseysiders which culminated in the 4-1 hammering in Naples last week and a period for the players and staff to reflect and deliver some home truths to each other.
This was still far from the Reds’ sparkling best, but it was a clear improvement. Klopp’s side deserved to take all three points from this encounter with an Ajax team who had previously won all of their matches so far in this campaign.
In the end, it was a set piece that paid dividends. The Dutch giants had creaked all night trying to deal with the aerial threat of Van Dijk et al and so it was no surprise that the winner came via that means.
Liverpool will not play again until after the international break so it will be tricky to take much momentum from this, but the platform is there to move into a tough October period in better spirits.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Joel Matip (Liverpool). The defender is often an unsung hero, particularly amongst the wider football community. Van Dijk gets all of the attention but there’s no doubt Matip adds stability when he partners the Dutchman. His absence is often felt and he returned to the side here to make a clear improvement to the defensive unit before popping up with the all-important winner.
LIVERPOOL: Alisson 8, Alexander-Arnold 7, Tsimikas 7, Matip 8, Van Dijk 7, Fabinho 7, Thiago 8, Elliott 7, Salah 7, Jota 7, Diaz 8. Subs: Nunez 6, Firmino 6, Milner n/a, Bajcetic n/a.
AJAX: Pasveer 8, Rensch 7, Timber 7, Bassey 7, Blind 7, Berghuis 7, Álvarez 7, Taylor 7, Tadic 7, Kudus 8, Bergwijn 7. Subs: Sanchez 6, Grillitsch n/a, Brobbey n/a.
17’ – GOAL! – Liverpool 1-0 Ajax. Salah gets back on the goal trail as he fires Jota’s pass beyond the keeper after Diaz had opened up Ajax with a superb flick on.
22’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Ajax’s defence creaks once more. Van Dijk’s header back across goal is cleared only as far as Diaz, who chests down before fizzing just wide of Pasveer’s right-hand post.
27’ – GOAL! – Liverpool 1-1 Ajax. The visitors stun the Kop with a brilliant leveller. Berghuis races down the left and cuts it back for Mohammed Kudus, who takes a touch before rifling a wonderful shot into the top corner off the underside of the bar.
41’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Alexander Arnold takes Diaz’s pass on the run, cuts inside and drills in a thumping shot that Pasveer is able to parry. The rebound falls back to the Liverpool full back but his follow-up from a difficult angle is once again batted away by the keeper.
76’ – AJAX CHANCE! Blind guides a free header wide of the far post after Tadic picked him out with a superb cross from the right.
83’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Salah touches a brilliant ball into the path of Nunez but the forward can only roll his low shot wide of the far post from 12 yards out.
89’ – GOAL! – Liverpool 2-1 Ajax. Matip rises brilliantly to thump a header beyond the keeper from a left-wing corner.