Last updated on .From the section European Football
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says qualifying for the Champions League knockout phase should “never be taken for granted” after his side sealed their spot in the last 16.
The Reds put their domestic woes behind them to progress from Group A with a clinical second-half display against Ajax in Amsterdam.
Needing a draw to reach the next stage, Klopp’s side were fortunate not to be behind before Mohamed Salah clipped in with their only shot on target of the first half.
Darwin Nunez, back in the starting line-up after injury, should have doubled the lead before half-time but the £64m summer signing struck a post with an open goal in front of him.
However, the Uruguay forward quickly made amends by powering in a precise header from Andy Robertson’s corner shortly after the restart.
Moments later, England Under-21 midfielder Harvey Elliott added the third by latching on to Salah’s reverse pass and lashing into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
Liverpool’s decisive finishing clinched a place in the last 16 for the sixth successive season.
“Qualifying for the knockout stages, I think nobody ever should take for granted – it’s really difficult,” said Klopp.
“We did it again, which is a big achievement in itself.”
The comfortable victory means the Reds host Napoli in next week’s final round of group-stage fixtures safe in the knowledge their place is assured.
Experience sees Liverpool through
Liverpool’s inconsistent start to the season, epitomised by another disjointed performance in a shock 1-0 Premier League defeat at Nottingham Forest at the weekend, has frustrated their supporters and left some wondering about the direction of Klopp’s side.
The prospect of a smooth passage to the Champions League knockout phase was far from certain after a 4-1 defeat by Napoli in their opening group game.
But their vast experience in Europe’s premier club competition, in which they were champions in 2019 and runners-up last season, has eventually provided much-needed comfort, as they brushed away any early fears of not progressing.
Home and away victories over Rangers and Ajax have propelled the Reds into last 16, while the prize of finishing group winners is still up for grabs if they can beat Napoli by a four-goal margin at Anfield.
Despite being far from their best in Amsterdam, particularly in the first half, Liverpool’s quality and know-how eventually shone through against the Dutch champions.
Asked if the performance would provide a lift for his squad, Klopp told BT Sport: “Look, we don’t have to talk about it all the time but it is clear.
“It is really helpful for the club, it is important for everybody and of course gives us a lift. Tonight we feel all great.”
Things could have been much different had Ajax taken either of the two glorious chances which they spurned before Salah’s strike.
A slick move carved open the visitors in the third minute, only for Steven Berghuis to hit the post when he had time and space in the penalty box.
With Liverpool lacking cohesion and not managing a serious effort on the home goal, another clear-cut chance went begging when they piled forward on the counter-attack shortly after the half-hour mark.
The quick surge left Liverpool outnumbered at the back, but right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold showed excellent positional sense to block Dusan Tadic’s goal-bound shot.
Injuries to key players have not helped the Reds’ momentum this season, a point emphasised by Klopp in the build-up to the trip to Amsterdam.
Being able to welcome back Alexander-Arnold and captain Jordan Henderson added a much-needed layer of experience at Johan Cruyff Arena, with Nunez offering a focal point in their attack.
Now Klopp’s task is to ensure his side can finally start stringing together convincing performances in the Premier League, starting with Saturday’s visit of a Leeds United side bereft of confidence.
Player of the match
Squad number3Player nameBasseyAverage rating
Squad number22Player namePasveerAverage rating
Squad number19Player nameSánchezAverage rating
Squad number2Player nameTimberAverage rating
Squad number10Player nameTadicAverage rating
Squad number17Player nameBlindAverage rating
Squad number9Player nameBrobbeyAverage rating
Squad number20Player nameKudusAverage rating
Squad number7Player nameBergwijnAverage rating
Squad number23Player nameBerghuisAverage rating
Squad number4Player nameÁlvarezAverage rating
Squad number6Player nameKlaassenAverage rating
Squad number8Player nameTaylorAverage rating
Squad number5Player nameWijndalAverage rating
Squad number21Player nameGrillitschAverage rating
Squad number35Player nameFrancisco ConceiçãoAverage rating
Squad number26Player nameRobertsonAverage rating
Squad number19Player nameElliottAverage rating
Squad number11Player nameMohamed SalahAverage rating
Squad number1Player nameAlissonAverage rating
Squad number9Player nameRoberto FirminoAverage rating
Squad number7Player nameMilnerAverage rating
Squad number27Player nameNúñezAverage rating
Squad number28Player nameFábio CarvalhoAverage rating
Squad number4Player namevan DijkAverage rating
Squad number14Player nameHendersonAverage rating
Squad number43Player nameBajceticAverage rating
Squad number2Player nameGomezAverage rating
Squad number17Player nameJonesAverage rating
Squad number21Player nameTsimikasAverage rating
Squad number3Player nameFabinhoAverage rating
Squad number66Player nameAlexander-ArnoldAverage rating
- 17BlindSubstituted forWijndalat 58′minutes
- 6KlaassenSubstituted forKudusat 58′minutes
- 4ÁlvarezSubstituted forGrillitschat 85′minutes
- 23BerghuisSubstituted forFernandes da Conceiçãoat 85′minutes
- 9BrobbeySubstituted forTaylorat 63′minutes
- 35Fernandes da Conceição
- 4van Dijk
- 26RobertsonSubstituted forTsimikasat 87′minutes
- 3FabinhoSubstituted forBajceticat 71′minutes
- 19ElliottSubstituted forCarvalhoat 71′minutes
- 14HendersonSubstituted forMilnerat 71′minutes
- 27NúñezSubstituted forJonesat 63′minutes
- José María Sánchez Martínez
Match ends, Ajax 0, Liverpool 3.