Liverpool confirmed a place in the Champions League knockout stages following a commanding 3-0 victory over Ajax on Wednesday.
Mohamed Salah opened the scoring to notch his sixth Champions League goal of the season before Darwin Nunez and Harvey Elliott scored in quick succession early in the second half to ensure the Premier League side bounced back from Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest, who are bottom of the Premier League table.
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« The game started tricky for us as Ajax are a good team, » Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said.
« The first half hour they were the better team, more settled than us. Their man marking system is uncomfortable for us. We had to get used to that — that’s normal, it’s an away game in the Champions League.
« We scored our goal and that opened things up. Half-time we had a lot of good moments to show as well, and we tried to continue on that pathway and scored two goals and controlled the game which is good. And we’re happy to go through to the last 16, great. »
Jurgen Klopp’s side sit second in Group A on 12 points, three points below Napoli who extended their perfect run with a 3-0 win over Rangers on Wednesday.
Ajax displayed their attacking threat immediately. Steven Berghuis found himself with the goal at his mercy after slack Liverpool defending just four minutes in, but the Dutchman could only fire against the base of the post, a warning sign for Klopp’s side.
Liverpool took time to adjust to the tempo of the match, failing to truly test goalkeeper Remko Pasveer inside the opening 30 minutes.
Despite their lack of efforts on goal, Klopp’s side opened the scoring three minutes before half-time. Salah latched onto Jordan Henderson’s precise flick to chip an effort over the onrushing Pasveer.
Riding their momentum, Liverpool nearly doubled their lead immediately afterwards — Roberto Firmino’s unselfish play teed up Nunez, who somehow fired against the post with an open goal.
Nunez had the half-time break to ponder his poor miss, but he quickly made amends by scoring his second Champions League goal of the season four minutes after the break — converting a tougher chance than the one he earlier spurned.
Andy Robertson’s outswinging corner was met by the head of Nunez, who nodded his effort in, touching the far post on its way.
Three minutes later, Klopp’s side extended their lead to three, with Elliott becoming the first teenager to score in consecutive Champions League appearances for Liverpool.
The 19-year-old received the ball from Salah in the box before firing an emphatic effort into the roof of the net from an acute angle.
Liverpool’s victory was never in doubt after their onslaught of goals as they controlled possession and the flow of chances.
Ajax won six out of six matches last season in the group stages, but have won just one of their matches in Group A this season. On his side’s poor run, Dusan Tadic said: « Last time it was a different group. We changed a lot of players but this is not a reason to lose a lot of games with this difference. This game should go in [a] different direction if we make goals — it’d [have] been a totally difficult game had we done that. »
Liverpool play their final Champions League group match against Napoli at Anfield on Nov. 1. They lost the reverse fixture 4-1 in September.