Liverpool made a solid start to their 2020/21 Champions League campaign with a 1-0 victory over Ajax at the Johan Cruyff Arena. It wasn’t the most convincing of wins, with the Reds requiring a strange own-goal from Nicolas Tagliafico to win them the game. Nevertheless, after a couple of scary moments at the back, Liverpool defended quite well and came away with a much-needed clean sheet.
In goal, he was at it again. Adrian made one good save to deny Quincy Promes from close-range, but other than that he was a bit of a calamity. Very early on he came sprinting out of his goal to deal with a ball Gomez had under control. Shortly after that, he took too long to make a clearance and ended up blasting the ball straight at Dusan Tadic which could have ended up anywhere. There were two or three other moments of madness from the Spaniard as well but I’ll leave it there. Fingers crossed it won’t be too long before we have Alisson back in between the posts, because I don’t think any of us can take any more of this.
In defence, with Van Dijk out and Matip unable to play two games in a week, Fabinho was forced to drop into the back four alongside Joe Gomez, Trent and Robertson. The Brazilian has only played a handful of games at centre-back for us since joining from Monaco, but once again he was absolutely outstanding in that role. He made a number of crucial blocks and tackles throughout the game and also pulled off the moment of the match. After Adrian was caught in no man’s land and had the ball lifted over his head by Tadic, Fabinho got back and cleared the ball off the line with a sensational overhead kick. Gomez also had a decent performance. He started off a bit shakily, failing to clear the ball properly a couple of times but he grew into the game and finished strongly. As for the full-backs, Andy Robertson continued his excellent start to the campaign with an all-action display. His energy impresses me every time he plays and once again, he was up and down the pitch for the full 90 minutes. Going forward he was causing Ajax so many problems and deserved to get either a goal or an assist on the night. Trent on the other hand carried on with his difficult start to the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was carrying a knock because he is looking rather out of sorts at the moment.
In midfield, with Thiago and Keita out, Fabinho at the back and Henderson only able to play 45 minutes, we started the game with Wijnaldum, Milner and Curtis Jones. It wasn’t great to put it bluntly. James Milner, as much as we love him for his personality, is not capable of starting in important matches at this stage of his career. He looked lost out there which certainly didn’t help Jones in his first Champions League start. Jones got hooked at halftime with Henderson replacing him which sounds now as though it was a planned change. It did feel harsh at the time to take the youngster off when Milner had played worse. Gini Wijnaldum had a decent game despite still being allergic to scoring goals. He could have had a couple in the second half but failed to show the necessary composure.
In attack, the usual front three started. Mane did create the first goal in strange fashion, but apart from that none of the trio played particularly well. Klopp eventually replaced all three of them on the hour with Jota, Shaqiri and Minamino. Another planned substitution, no doubt, but it was quite a sight. It has to be said that they did pretty well when they came on. Jota was particularly lively and looked dangerous, while Minamino looked quite good and Shaqiri not bad either. With Firmino continuing his dreadful form, sooner or later he is going to have to be dropped for either Taki or Diogo.
As for Man of the Match, it can only go to Fabinho. Playing out of position he put in a sublime performance and gave all Reds a bit of confidence going into the rest of this season without Virgil. If he keeps playing this well at the back, we’ll be just fine.