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Reds Column IV

Champions League 2020-21 Summary: AFC Ajax vs Liverpool

Thanks to an Own Goal from Nicolás Tagliafico, Liverpool Fc kicked off their Champions League 2020-21 Group D Campaign with a 0-1 win over the hosts AFC Ajax.

Joël Matip was pulled out before the match due to a tight Leg muscle issue which he sustained during the last Saturday’s Premier League match against hosts Everton Fc. The Cameroonian International will be further medically reassessed before the upcoming Saturday Premier League home match against Sheffield United Fc.

In place of Matip, Fabinho was lined up in the heart of the defence alongside Joe Gomez.

With key players missing, Liverpool Fc (The Reds) fielded a depleted side with young Curtis Jones taking the field and Captain Jordan Henderson starting from the bench.

The game was not dour but yet lacked the usual excitement that relates with the Reds style of play. Young Curtis Jones was brought in the midfield but the midfield looked disjointed at times and did not provide sufficient cover for the defence during the First Half.

There were plenty of warning signs for the Reds as AFC Ajax went close to breaking the deadlock. In the 21st minute Dušan Tadić neatly assisted to Ryan Gravenberch but the young Dutch fired his shot wide.

Again, the Dutch side threatened to break the deadlock in the 33rd minute as Dušan Tadić assisted brilliantly to Quincy Promes but Adrián made a point blank save to deny the Dutch side.

After been forced to go through many unfortunate injuries, Lady Luck finally favoured the Reds. Following a throw-in, Sadio Mané squeezed past the Dutch defence and completely muffed his shot but in an attempt to clear the ball, Nicolás Tagliafico dragged his shot into his own net which handed the opening goal for the Reds.

Both sides looked toothless in the attack throughout as the match tamely headed into the Second Half with the Reds clinging on to 0-1 lead. Before the start of the Second Half, Curtis Jones was substituted for Jordan Henderson to bring more balance to the side and provide incisive passes in to the final third.

With the Reds due to play Premier League Match at home against Sheffield United Fc, Jurgen Klopp decided to replace front 3 of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. The trio was substituted in the 60th minute for Diogo Jota, Takumi Minamino and Xherdan Shaqiri.

After the substitutions were made, the Reds were by far the better side in the second half but lacked the clinical finishing.

What helped the cause for the Reds was also poor finishing from AFC Ajax as the Dutch side did not capitalise on their limited goal scoring opportunities.

There was one final chance for the home side but Jurgen Ekkelenkamp shot the ball too high as the Reds held on to a narrow 0-1 win.

 

Reds Team Performance Ratings

Liverpool (4-3-3 Formation)

Defence:

Adrián – 7: Much better performance from the Spaniard despite looking shaky during the first few minutes of the game. Made 2 saves to keep the Reds in the hunt and kept things simple.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6: Perhaps needs rest as the young Englishman was not at his usual best. Looked threatening going forward but defensively was not sharp enough.

Fabinho – 9: Denied a goal but the Brazilian was simply imperious defensively in the absence of the colossal Dutch Virgil Van Dijk.

Joe Gomez – 9: Near perfect performance from the young Englishman and partnered well with Fabinho to keep the home team’s attack at bay.

Andrew Robertson – 7: Never a dull moment with the tireless Scot. Always kept the Reds on the move and defended superbly as well.

Midfield:

Curtis Jones – 5: The youngster was shown faith by Klopp. Started well but his performance faded drastically during the first half and was substituted for Jordan Henderson. Nevertheless, this match will be a good experience for the youngster.

Georginio Wijnaldum – 6: Looked disjointed earlier in the match but the Dutchman improved with the introduction of Jordan Henderson.

James Milner – 7: Fine performance from the ageless Veteran as he linked up well with the defence and the attack.

Forwards:

Sadio Mané – 6: Lacked the usual sharpness in his finishing but fortunately, one of his wayward shot indirectly gave the only goal for the Reds and was taken off to give more rest.

Roberto Firmino – 5: Looked jaded and anonymous. Perhaps the lack of goals might also be bothering the Brazilian.

Mohamed Salah – 6: The Egyptian looked threatening in the attack but lacked the clinical finishing.

Substitutes:

Jordan Henderson – 7: Replaced the young Curtis Jones to bring more balance and provide incisive passes into the final third. The Reds attack improved greatly but the finishing was not up to the mark.

Diogo Jota – 6: The young Portuguese never gave a moment’s respite for the Ajax defence and on another day could have scored the goal that required just calm finishing.

Takumu Minamino – 6: The Japanese International was lively in the attack but perhaps he is best suited to play as a Left Winger in 4-3-3 Formation to get the best out of him. Had a shot saved by the AFC Ajax Goalkeeper André Onana.

Xherdan Shaqiri – 6: The Swiss International made several good incisive passes into the final third and kept up with the attacking tempo. If he can maintain his fitness, Shaqiri can be a very important player for the Reds this season.

 

Coach:

Jürgen Klopp – 8: Could not have asked for more from a depleted Reds side as they picked up a crucial away win and a clean sheet. With the kind of misfortune that the Reds had to go through, Klopp will gladly take any Goals as long as the Reds can win.

The German rightly substituted the attacking trio Mané, Firmino and Salah with the view of keeping them fresh as well as injury free ahead of the Saturday Premier League Home Clash against Sheffield United Fc.

 

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