Liverpool booked their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League by beating Ajax 1-0 at Anfield.
The Premier League champions went into the game knowing anything other than a defeat would be enough to see them through. They removed any doubt by claiming the win they needed to top the group.
Curtis Jones scored the only goal in the second half, having already hit the crossbar in the first half. After he broke the deadlock in the 58th minute, Liverpool kept hold of their clean sheet to see out the win.
That achievement was even more impressive given that they were without regular goalkeeper Alisson Becker. The Brazilian missed the game through injury, meaning Caoimhin Kelleher came in for his Champions League debut.
Kelleher had to stay alert to earn his clean sheet, making a good save from Noussair Mazraoui just after the half-hour mark as he tipped over a long-range shot.
It was Ajax’s best chance of the opening 45 minutes, as they controlled possession. However, Liverpool were more dangerous in attack – and almost got in on goal just before the break, before Perr Schuurs took out Sadio Mane as he was rushing in behind.
The defender was booked as a result, with some feeling it could have been more. The Dutch club retained their full complement of players, though.
Among that 11 was former Everton midfielder Davy Klaassen, who almost marked his return to Merseyside with a goal just after the break. However, he headed a decent chance wide.
At the other end, the ball sat up nicely for Neco Williams, but Mohamed Salah got in his teammate’s way. Williams’ resulting half-volley lacked power.
Jones wins it with clever finish
A few moments later, though, Liverpool were ahead through a different academy graduate. Ajax keeper Andre Onana misjudged a cross from Williams, which Jones latched onto at the far post.
Jones tapped into an empty net from a tight angle with the outside of his boot to make it 1-0.
Oh dear, Onana! 😰
Two academy graduates combine to give Liverpool the lead, as Neco Williams assists Curtis Jones 🤝
Ajax’s keeper won’t want to see this one again though… pic.twitter.com/j8jebhaeYN
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 1, 2020
That goal sparked a lively few moments, with Liverpool almost punishing Onana again. However, this time, the goalkeeper managed to disrupt Salah.
Onana showed the better side of his game when he pushed away a shot from Roberto Firmino with a strong hand in the final 10 minutes.
Kelleher made a big save of his own as Ajax pushed for an equaliser, pushing over a header from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar at point blank range. It kept his clean sheet intact, meaning the result was exactly the same as the one Liverpool had beaten Ajax by in the reverse fixture.
Hence, they qualify from Group D as winners with one game to spare. The group stage will conclude with their visit to Midtjylland next Wednesday.