Liverpool have beaten Ajax in their Champions League opener following a 1-0 victory at The Johan Cruyff Arena.
An own goal by Nicolás Tagliafico gave Jurgen Klopp’s a vital win. It wasn’t the prettiest of encounters, but all that mattered here were the three points.
Here is five things we learnt on a satisfying night
Once again, Fabinho was utterly outstanding in the heart of defence. It was a performance even Virgil van Dijk would have been proud of.
He constantly frustrated the hosts and was perfectly placed to thwart a number of Ajax counter-attacks and was also ice-cool in possession.
Fabinho’s moment of the match came during the end of the first half after he raced back to make a heroic goalline clearance to deny Dusan Tadic which drew similarities to the heroics of James Milner last season against Bournemouth.
He was everywhere and his reading of the game was impeccable. Defensively, Fabinhio was imperious. He made four tackles, nine clearences and four interceptions according to WhoScored.
This was the perfect performance to vindicate that Liverpool can still flex their muscles defensively, even in the absence of the irreplaceable Van Dijk.
Klopp shows off Liverpool’s depth
Perhaps one of the more surprising elements of the match took place on the hour mark when Klopp chose to utilise the European five-substitution rule to his advantage.
The German manager made a triple change once the clock struck 60 minutes. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were all brought off at the same time to make way for Jota, Minamino and Xherdan Shaqiri.
It was an inspired tactical tweak as both Jota and Minamino constantly caused problems for the Ajax defence and both demonstrated how useful they can be to fill the attacking void left when Liverpool’s pedigreed front-three require a rest.
Liverpool show their uglier side
This certainly wasn’t one of Liverpool’s most flamboyant and exuberant performances that we will laud over for months to come.
Instead, Klopp made sure Liverpool were tactically resolute and were prepared to dig deep and to grind out a precious victory.
It was particularly pleasing to see how well both Fabinho and Joe Gomez performed together. The defensive duo read the game exceptionally and were perfectly placed on numerous occasions to clear any danger opposed by Ajax. Collectivley, the pair made an astonishing 19 clearences.
Three points the perfect start
Liverpool had to dig their claws in to grind out an important victory. It was far from a polished performance but a win and a clean sheet were the perfect way for Liverpool to cap a strong performance.
There were a number of encouraging performances from Klopp’s team, Fabinho, Andy Robertson and James Milner were all outstanding while Diogo Jota and Takumi Minamino impressed from off the bench.
This win puts Liverpool in a commanding position in the group already.
If we win all of our home games, which is easier said than done, we will qualify. This is the best possible way to kick start the campaign.
Champions League nights are not quite the same
It should come as no surprise. We have been used to football without fans for months now.
However, this was one of the occasions which really drove home how flat the atmosphere is without supporters in attendance.
The game still had the intensity you would expect from two of Europe’s most iconic teams, but as an occasion, it was lacking.
We all remember how wild the scenes can get at the typically raucous Johan Cruyff Arena. This wasn’t quite the same.
It probably worked to our advantage early on, with Ajax lacking the vocal home crowd behind them.