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Liverpool respond to brutal message as Jurgen Klopp uncovers two players he can’t be without

Match verdict from Paul Gorst as Liverpool return to winning ways with a 2-1 Champions League triumph over Ajax at Anfield.


After administering “four or five days of absolute truth” to his Liverpool players last week, it seems Jurgen Klopp has found that honesty is indeed the best policy.


This was not exactly a Reds side at their swashbuckling, awe-inspiring best, but they at least started to vaguely resemble the team who were good enough to reach the final of the Champions League just a few short months ago.


The 4-1 humbling at Napoli last week – a “horrorshow” of a performance Klopp frankly conceded was the worst of his near seven years at the club – inevitably opened the door to all manner of critiques and claims, with some even suggesting that the end of a glorious era was approaching at Anfield.


For a sport that does hyperbole and overreaction so well those sorts of statements were always going to be forthcoming, but the only way to turn down the volume on that noise was by a proper Liverpool reaction here against Ajax, one befitting of their well-earned reputation.


This was perhaps not that, but a welcome step in the right direction as Klopp’s men signed off for September with a much-needed return to winning ways.


A candid analysis meeting, held to pick out the bones of the Naples video nasty, sounded like it told a few home truths to those who needed to hear it at the AXA Centre, even if the manager stopped short of detailing exactly what was unreservedly spelled out to his players during Monday’s media dealings.


It’s symptomatic of where Liverpool are at present that this particularly blunt meeting is the second of its kind already this term. Klopp spoke of being able to ‘get things off his chest’ after the worst start to a Premier League season for 10 years was recorded last month. Perhaps the question now is whether the management should hold this type of gathering before every game seeing as it seems to have the desired effect.


Klopp gave the air of a man who wanted to get back to basics on Monday and his team selection revealed as much as he opted for returns for Joel Matip, Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota; three picks that instantly bolstered the spine of a side whose soft underbelly has been far too exposed of late.

Liverpool had their lead inside 20 minutes when a simple long ball from Alisson Becker was flicked on by Luis Diaz before Jota slid in Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian has been out of sorts of late but he dispatched it with no fuss for his third of the campaign.


Anything Liverpool’s Mohamed could do, though, so could Ajax’s and the Eredivisie giants were level when Mohammed Kudus spun on a low cross before firing past Alisson before the half-hour mark. There was little the Brazilian goalkeeper could do about the well-struck leveller.


The return of Thiago was a much-needed injection of desire, energy and most of all quality to the middle of the park. The Spaniard had supporters gasping at times with his trademark shimmies and dummies and his use of the ball was always intelligent. One classy step-over as the Ajax press drew near was particularly well received by the Kop as Kostas Tsimikas escaped down the left as a result.



If Klopp and his medical team can keep the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich schemer fit for a prolonged period then their chances at an early-season revival will be greatly improved. The same applies to match-winner Matip who was solid on his first start since August 6.


Jota fizzed a 25-yarder just wide before Trent Alexander-Arnold went even closer from further out but the right-back’s biggest chance came when he forced the unconvincing Remko Pasveer into a double save.


Klopp sent on Darwin Nunez and Roberto Firmino shortly after the hour mark for Elliott and Jota and the shape was tweaked to a 4-2-3-1. The pair were involved in a huge chance inside the final 10 minutes when Firmino fed Salah before Nunez could only side-foot wide.


Nunez came closer moments later when he wriggled free of a challenge at a tight angle before forcing Pasveer into a save which Diaz was unfortunate not to snaffle the rebound from.


As the game ticked towards stoppage time, it was Matip who finally made the most of Liverpool’s game-long dominance in the air to convert a Tsimikas corner, despite Dusan Tadic’s best efforts to head off the line.


The roar that greeted the full-time whistle told you all you needed to know about how much value the fans placed in this particular triumph. Given their rocky road so far it would be unrealistic to expect a sudden return to the sort of levels that have made this team such a feared prospect both domestically and on the continent, but a slender 2-1 victory is the first small step towards that standing once more.


A few weeks off now grants Klopp the chance to get his walking wounded closer to their own respective returns and offer the international contingent the opportunity to briefly refocus their efforts elsewhere. The hope will be that no more crisis talks are needed from here on in. For now, at least.




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