It was sort of fitting that the winner was scored the way it was. Liverpool dominated in the air the whole game, with Van Dijk having more attempts on goal than, I believe, anyone else. Annoyingly, none of them actually went in. Either they were a bit too square, or Pasveer deflected them with a solid performance between the sticks. It began to feel like one of those nights when it feels like the Reds should emerge comfortable victors, only to draw or even lose to a plucky opponent.
Then came Matip, and goal line technology sorted out the rest.
Don’t get me wrong; Ajax is an excellent team, as always, but it’s also a new team, as is so often the case with them. It’s always a joy to watch them, even when they’re playing your team, and tonight was no different. They played their socks off, and even though they were clearly inferior to Klopp’s side pretty much the entire game, it still feels like the Reds escaped a disaster. Not that it’s ever a shame to draw or even lose to Ajax, but coming on top of that 4-1 defeat to Napoli, another loss might well have meant a chance for Klopp to win a new trophy in the Europa League.
Thankfully it didn’t happen, the Reds grabbed a deserved 3 points, and, well, game on.
If anyone had any questions about the importance of man-of-the-match Thiago to this team, this game should have put them to rest. The man was outrageous, both individually and in the way he made everyone around him look so much better. Suddenly all those gaps in the midfield disappeared, Fabinho was back to being the best at his job, and Mo looked like Mo again. The latter’s goal was a routine Liverpool masterpiece, with Alisson going over everybody to Diaz, who laid it off to Jota, whose pass to Salah was simply brilliant.
We can only hope that Thiago can stay fit and healthy for the season.
Some problems are still evident. The Reds gave away a goal they shouldn’t have, again coming out of the Trent flank. It seems that wily opponents have figured out how to exploit his (relative) lack of awareness and overload him to create gaps on the right. Yet having Matip back closed many of these gaps, and that’s another hopeful sign for the future. The season is still in very early stages, and everything can happen. Which leads me to Nunez, who better start paying dividend on that investment, and soon; he had an absolutely shocking miss in front of the Kop.
Next two games are with Rangers, and Liverpool should win both. If they do, they would be one draw away from more or less guaranteeing a spot in the playoffs. Yes, it pains me to write that, but like Rome, momentum isn’t built in a day.