Liverpool secured a much needed-three points against Ajax to get their Champions League campaign up and running on Tuesday night.
After a “horror show,” in Naples, as Jurgen Klopp and some of his players have described it, the Reds needed to show a reaction here.
First of all, Adam, you were at the game – an impeccably held minute’s silence, wasn’t it?
ADAM: Yes. In some quarters, the reporting of the silence has been predictably grim.
Fortunately, many of the more respected journalists reported the truth, that the vast majority observed it from start to finish, as is always the case at Anfield, but it appears some had pre-emptively made their minds up and gave accounts based on headlines they’d already written.
It will no doubt be used as ammunition for rival fans to perpetuate the slurs that have plagued away ends at Anfield for decades, the same fans who wonder why many of us feel a disconnect from the national team at major tournaments.
That felt like a big win…
DAVE: First and foremost, it’s a very important result. Liverpool were heading for one point from a possible six in a tough group, so their chances of progression would have looked under threat but for the late winner.
But the performance is the real source of encouragement. Had Liverpool scraped an ugly win, it might simply have papered over cracks, similar to the game against Newcastle. But they were much more like their usual selves, creating vast amounts of chances and, particularly in the second half, controlling the game. For me, the most pleasing stat of the night, in light of our issues recently, is that Ajax only managed three shots.
JACK: Much more like it, wasn’t it? It was all about the changes, for me. I thought all four of the players that came into the side were brilliant.
ADAM: Yeah, it felt massive, that. A draw would by no means have been the end of days as far as the group was concerned, but psychologically we had to shake Napoli off and go into the extended break with a bit of a lift.
The performance wasn’t perfect and we didn’t respond particularly well to the equaliser, but there were a lot more positives to cling to and it genuinely felt like the goal was coming, which was more than could be said at Old Trafford, Goodison and in Naples.
That Thiago performance. Wow!
JACK: He made all the difference, and we knew he would. I think it was right up there with his best performances for the club.
Given he’s not long come back from an injury, keeping him on for nearly 90 minutes probably wasn’t ideal, but needs must at the moment!
Really is a shame that so much of his Liverpool career has been plagued by injuries. He looks more important to this side than ever.
ADAM: MOTM was basically a battle for second place wasn’t it! Thiago’s ability to come in after an injury and completely transform things without needing time to settle is priceless.
I don’t think it’s overstating things to say that a huge chunk of our season rests on somehow being able to keep him fit and healthy. He was as impressive defensively as he was on the ball, and I really enjoyed him trying to whip up the crowd walking past The Kop after being taken off towards the end. It worked, too. The place was bouncing and with good reason.
Aside from him, Kostas Tsimikas obviously stood out, his performance nicely crowned with the winning assist, and Diogo Jota was extremely lively in the first half before looking understandably leggy during the second.
DAVE: When I knew that Thiago would likely start this game, I felt so much more confident.
I knew he’d elevate the team in virtually every department, and that’s why, in a strange way, I wasn’t even particularly struck by how well he played yesterday. It’s what I expect from him now because I know that he’s one of the very best in his position in Europe. He’s almost like a midfield equivalent of Virgil van Dijk in that respect.
Beyond Thiago, I’d also pick out Tsimikas. Andy Robertson‘s injury is obviously a blow but he wasn’t exactly in the best form, and I think we should all have complete confidence in Tsimikas to deliver at this point.
No Liverpool games until October now. Is the break a good thing?
ADAM: A few days ago I’d have said yes, but now I’m not so sure.
We’ve seen in the past how a last minute winner can be the catalyst for an upturn in form, and I walked out of that ground last night wanting to go straight to Stamford Bridge.
The reality is that there is still plenty to do to turn this side into a team capable of challenging for the big honours, and perhaps we will look back on this gap as a turning point, but from a selfish point of view I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with myself for the next 17 days!
JACK: Yeah, you’re not alone!
The break does, at least give us a chance to get some more players back fit. After the game last night, Klopp said one or two could be back after the internationals. I’d assume Andy Robertson is probably one of those, but Caoimhin Kelleher, Ibrahima Konate and Jordan Henderson shouldn’t be too far off, either.
DAVE: I think most of us wanted a break after Napoli so Klopp had time to “reinvent” the team, as he put it. This time, it’s hard to know how to feel about it.
We find ourselves in a bizarre situation this autumn because of extenuating circumstances. No Premier League football for a month, an international break, and then a six-week dash until the World Cup. It’s an unprecedented level of disruption for Klopp and his peers to deal with.
The good news for us is that we get to carry positive feelings into the break, rather than having to stew in another setback. What we simply must do is make sure this isn’t another false dawn, like the Bournemouth game was.