Liverpool Open Group D Campaign With Win

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An own goal from Nicolas Tagliafico saw Liverpool open their Champions League Group D campaign with a 1-0 victory away to Ajax.

Far from their best, the Reds — who played a makeshift centre half pairing of Joe Gomez and Fabinho — battled their way to a win in a professional rather than purring showing.

It was clear from the opening that the hosts — so renowned for their offensive style of football — would endeavour to attack the English Champions and they marginally had the better of the opening half an hour with Adrian making saves from a corner — which was comfortable for the Spaniard — and another, with his foot, when David Neres bore down on goal.

Liverpool, however, looked dangerous on the break with Andrew Robertson an effective out ball down the left-hand side. And it was down this flank that the visitors — thanks to a huge stroke of fortune — opened the scoring.

Sadio Mane, after twisting his way into the box with a beautiful body feint, totally miscued what appeared to be a cross and Tagliafico, the Argentinian international left-back, seemed so dumbfounded by the sequence of events that he could not readjust his body and ball deflected off him and past Andre Onana and into the net.

The Reds, with James Milner a calming influence in midfield, and Gomez and Fabinho sturdy at the back, held their lead into the interval.

Ajax started the second half with intent and only the post denied them an equalizer. Dusan Tadic, the Dutch sides creative hub, laid a ball off to Davy Klaassen and the former Everton midfielder smacked an outside of the right boot shot off the post. Adrian appeared to get the faintest of touches on the ball as it cannoned off the woodwork.

The almost concession of a goal elicited a response from Liverpool and they came close to a second goal when Roberto Firmino — who earlier ought to have won a penalty when he nutmegged Perr Schuurs in the box before being dragged down — miscued a header from a corner when he should have scored. It did appear that the Brazilian’s path to the header was impeded by an Ajax player, however, and he could not make the requisite contact with the ball.

That was to be the number 9’s last major action, when he — and Mohamed Salah and Mane — were called ashore in a triple substitution with Takumi Minamino, Diogo Jota and Xherdan Shaqiri all entered battle in their place.

So many changes, with Ajax also making five of their own, meant the game lost much of its rhythm and Liverpool, with Jordan Henderson — who replaced Curtis Jones at half time — bringing leadership and calm to the equation saw the game out relatively comfortably.

In fact, with Jota — in particular — looking lively, they could have won by a bigger margin, with the Portuguese forward laying on chances for both Georginio Wijnaldum and Minamino late on which Onana saved.

Youngster Rhys Williams — who played Conference football last season — was given a late European debut as the English team reverted to a back five in the closing minutes.

It was far from pretty, but all away wins in Europe are valuable and the Reds will be extremely happy with the win and the three points.

Liverpool team: Adrian; Alexander Arnold, Gomez, Fabinho, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Milner, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Replacements: Henderson for Jones, Williams for Milner, Jota for Mane, Shaqiri for Salah, Minamino for Firmino