Champions League: Liverpool defeat Ajax 1-0

Curtis Jones scores for Liverpool

Curtis Jones scored his first Champions League goal after a horrific goalkeeping mistake as Liverpool beat Ajax to win Group D and secure a place in the last 16.

Andre Onana misjudged the flight of Neco Williams’ cross and 19-year-old midfielder Jones took advantage to score with the outside of his right foot.

Caoimhin Kelleher, deputising for first-choice keeper Alisson who was missing with a hamstring injury, also played his part in Liverpool’s win, a tremendous stop to deny substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar the pick of his saves.

Former Everton midfielder Davy Klaassen wasted a great chance for the visitors and David Neres hit the woodwork.

Jones also rattled a post before his goal ensured Liverpool, with one game to spare, joined Premier League rivals Manchester City and Chelsea in the knockout stage.

Kelleher impresses in Alisson’s absence

A surprise home defeat by Atalanta last week had threatened Liverpool’s dominance in Group D, with the Italians and Ajax closing in.

But Jurgen Klopp’s side overcame their latest worrying injury setback to progress after an open and entertaining game at Anfield.

It was far from straightforward for the Reds, Klaassen heading wide for Ajax when he should have scored, while Neres was denied by the woodwork after Kelleher had done well to push away an attempt by young Brazilian forward Antony.

The 22-year-old’s stop to deny Huntelaar, having earlier produced a one-handed save to keep out Noussair Mazraoui, was exceptional and at the final whistle Klopp went straight to the Republic of Ireland squad member to congratulate him on his performance.

With Atalanta held in Denmark by Midtjylland, Liverpool are four points clear with one game to go and uncatchable at the top.

Having already secured the group, Klopp will be able to rest players when the Reds face Midtjylland in Denmark in the final round of games on 9 December.

More injury woe for the Reds

On a night when captain Jordan Henderson made his first club start since 8 November after injury, Liverpool revealed their first-choice keeper had become the latest player to join the list of casualties.

Their campaign has been littered with injury setbacks and Alisson’s hamstring problem, which is likely to rule him out of Sunday’s league game with Wolves and next week’s European game, means the Reds are now without nine senior players with matches coming thick and fast.

Midfielder Naby Keita (thigh) and right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold (calf) are close to returning.

But Virgil van Dijk (knee) is out for a prolonged period while there are no return dates for Joe Gomez (knee), Xherdan Shaqiri, James Milner (thigh), Thiago Alcantara (knee) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee).

Klopp’s decision to opt for Kelleher in Alisson’s absence raises questions about the future of Spanish keeper Adrian, who has often filled in when the Brazilian has been missing.

The veteran of more than 200 competitive appearances for Real Betis, West Ham and Liverpool watched from the bench as Kelleher provided a calming presence in Alisson’s absence.

Teenage talents – the best of the stats

  • Liverpool’s goal was the first time in Champions League history one teenager, Neco Williams (19 years and 232 days), assisted another, Curtis Jones (19 years and 306 days), for a Premier League side.
  • Curtis Jones (19 years and 306 days) is the third teenager to score for Liverpool in the Champions League after David N’Gog in 2008 (19 years and 252 days v PSV Eindhoven) and Trent Alexander-Arnold in 2017 (19 years and 10 days v Maribor).
  • Caoimhin Kelleher is the first Republic of Ireland player to appear in the Champions League for Liverpool since Robbie Keane in December 2008 and just the fourth for the Reds overall in the competition (Steve Finnan and Darren Potter the others).
  • Liverpool have registered four clean sheets in their past five Champions League games (2 goals conceded in total) after managing just one in eight before that (12 goals conceded).
  • Ajax have kept just one clean sheet in their past nine Champions League games after registering three shut-outs in four games before that.
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