Robin van Persie picked out two players for special praise after claiming Liverpool were “lucky” to earn a 1-0 win over Ajax on Wednesday night.
A Nicolas Tagliafico 35th-minute own goal decided an untidy match in Amsterdam as the Reds’ dug in for only their second clean sheet in 13 European games.
Midfielder Fabinho, in particular, was exceptional filling the hole left by Virgil Van Dijk’s long-term knee injury. He hooked a Dusan Tadic lob off the goalline to keep the score at 1-0 – but he also had a positive influence on Joe Gomez alongside him.
Ajax did though create a number of clear opening, particularly in the first half of the Champions League opener.
It left Jurgen Klopp animated on the sidelines, and former Manchester United and Arsenal striker Van Persie felt they were fortunate to leave Amsterdam with a victory.
Speaking to BT Sport, Van Persie said: “They clearly missed their main players. Virgil at the back of course is a big miss, Thiago – although he didn’t play a lot – is a world-class player.
“But Ajax had the bigger chances tonight. They played quite well, they had four or five clear chances, and normally they actually take one of them. Not tonight. So I think Liverpool have been lucky tonight.”
‘I would pay to watch him’
Asked if Ajax deserved to something from the game, Van Persie added: “Yes, I believe so. Ajax did well, created many chances, but didn’t get their goal.”
Former Holland striker Van Persie did go on to praise Sadio Mane and felt Jordan Henderson’s arrival at half-time helped Liverpool get control of the game.
“For me, in the first hour, it was a joy to watch Mane. His movement, the way he holds up the ball, his link-up play – I would pay to watch him! He’s a fantastic player to watch,” added Van Persie.
“You could see Liverpool were searching in the first half, but when Henderson came on you could see his leadership.
“He was yelling to his team-mates to go out on every single duel, he was really good on the ball, confident. He was like a proper, mature player, a real captain, so he made a big difference as well in the second half.”