Liverpool’s Joe Gomez put in a display to remind people of his natural ability while Fabinho barely put a foot out of place in Ajax victory as centre-back pair step up in absence of defensive totem Virgil van Dijk
- Liverpool secured a 1-0 victory in first Champions League group game at Ajax
- The Reds were without star defender Virgil van Dijk but centre backs stepped up
- Joe Gomez and Fabinho looked assured at the back as defence kept clean sheet
- Joel Matip is also an option while youngster Rhys Williams came off the bench
Everywhere you looked faces were scrunched up in frustration. There were only 90 seconds on the clock but a few significant reactions made you wonder if what was going to be one of those nights.
The eye was drawn to Joe Gomez, who was scowling and gesticulating; Fabinho looked exasperated, Adrian – in his canary yellow goalkeeper kit – pointed and barked. On the touchline, 50 yards away, Jurgen Klopp bellowed out, demanding clear communication.
It had almost been the worst possible start to Liverpool’s first European Cup campaign as England’s champions for 35 years, as Adrian came charging out to the left hand side of his area and bumped into Gomez, who was in control of a routine situation.
Fabinho starred for Liverpool in Amsterdam and produced an acrobatic overhead kick to clear
Joe Gomez put in a display to remind people of his natural ability in the 1-0 victory over Ajax
Defensive midfielder Fabinho stepped up in the absence of defensive totem Virgil van Dijk
Immediately you knew what everyone was thinking: that wouldn’t have happened had Virgil van Dijk been there.
But the man who brings tranquility to Liverpool’s team could be missing for the rest of the season and now it is up to those who are fit to do as the Dutchman did.
Fortunately for Klopp, who was a coiled spring throughout, the early aberration in Amsterdam did not set the tone. It would be wrong to say it was entirely plain-sailing but, for the first night without their defensive totem, Liverpool’s defence emerged with credit.
Gomez, for one, was switched on all night long. He has found himself under scrutiny in the opening months of the campaign, enduring some uncomfortable moments for club and country, but this was much better, a display to remind people of his natural ability.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was a coiled spring throughout but will be pleased with game
As encouraging as things were for the England international, he could not trump Fabinho, who would surely have had Van Dijk nodding in approval with the way he moved through the contest, barely putting a foot out of place.
He set his intentions in the 11th minute with a juddering tackle but the undisputed highlight of his compilation was the acrobatic overhead kick clearance – from underneath his crossbar – that denied Dusan Tadic and preserved Liverpool’s slender lead.
Fabinho and Gomez were helped by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, who patrolled the flanks with diligence and discipline, while the relentless work of Gini Wijnaldum also made things a little easier for them.
Questions remain, of course, over Adrian – Alisson Becker’s deputy – but the one thing Klopp wanted more than anything from this tussle with Ajax was a clean sheet to settle the nerves and restore some order. In that respect, it was mission accomplished.
Questions remain, of course, over Adrian – Alisson Becker’s deputy – but Reds kept clean sheet