Premier League • England

Jurgen Klopp reaction: Liverpool boss talks up Reds star with ‘big heart’ after Champions League progress secured

Jurgen Klopp Ajax v Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp was delighted after Liverpool secured a place in the Champions League last 16, with one Reds star coming in for particular praise after a mixed night in front of goal.

Liverpool reached the knockout stage after defeating Ajax 3-0 at the Johan Cruyff Arena thanks to goals from Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Harvey Elliott.

Having had their woodwork rattled early on by Steven Berghuis, the Reds went ahead in the 42nd minute via Salah’s finish.

The fit-again Nunez hit a post soon after, before extending the visitors’ lead with a 49th-minute header.

Elliott then added a fine strike three minutes later as Jurgen Klopp’s men, for whom a draw would have been sufficient to join Group A leaders Napoli in the next round, returned to winning ways four days on from the shock 1-0 Premier League loss at Nottingham Forest.

They next play Leeds at Anfield on Saturday evening, before wrapping up their Group A matches on Tuesday by hosting Napoli, who they are three points behind and lost 4-1 to in their European campaign opener.

Klopp, speaking, to BT Sport after the game said: “They had a top half an hour from a specific moment where they created a lot of pressure and did really well and we had to defend with a lot of passion.

“We scored a goal which was exceptional. The second half we had a really good start and controlled the game from then on.

On Nunez’s performance and his shocking first-half miss, Klopp added: “I think even he was surprised! [when Firmino passed for the shot on the woodwork]. He had a really good game in both directions, helped defending and played with a big heart today so hopefully we took him off early enough!

Klopp reveals tactical change

“We changed system again a little bit, we had to. We thought it would make sense. Ajax are a good football team and full of confidence always and you have to adjust. We did that and fine.

“It is clear. We are through to the knockouts and I will never take that for granted. Really helpful for the club, of course it gives the lift. Tonight we all feel great and we have a few days to prepare for Leeds.”

Robertson happy with Liverpool ‘control’

Andrew Robertson echoed Klopp’s comments as he praised Liverpool‘s ‘control’ in the game, adding: “We knew they had to win. They tried to start fast and I don’t think we calmed down quickly enough but the important thing was we didn’t concede. We managed to keep it tight and then it was about getting the first goal.

“We got the goal and in the second half we came through. Nice to get through before the last game.

“We had control. Darwin was really angry with himself at half time. I sat next to him at half time and told him I would put a cross in to his head for him to score.

“Three nil at this place, a really tough place to come and the clean sheet is so important for us now.”

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