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Winners & Losers

Matip spares wasteful Nunez: Liverpool winners, losers and ratings as defender scores late winner against Ajax

22:50 BST 13/09/2022
Joel Matip Liverpool Ajax 2022-23
Joel Matip sunk Ajax with a late goal at Anfield as Liverpool earned a desperately needed 2-1 win.

Not Mohamed Salah. Not Diogo Jota. Not Luis Diaz. Not Darwin Nunez.

No, the Reds got their Champions League campaign up and running with a clutch winner from centre-back Joel Matip on Tuesday night.

The defender rose highest to head home Kostas Tsimikas’ corner, sparking joyous scenes as Jurgen Klopp’s side put the misery of last week’s abject defeat to Napoli behind them.

In the process, Matip spared Nunez from harsh post-match reactions. The substitute striker failed to take a gilt-edged opportunity late on, dragging wide from Salah’s pass, as an uneven start to his Anfield tenure stumbled on.

Salah had earlier netted Liverpool's opener only for Mohammed Kudus to lash an equaliser past Alisson.

The win means Liverpool move level with Ajax on three points from two games in Group A, and they are next in action on October 4, when they welcome Rangers to Anfield.

  • Liverpool vs. Ajax

    The Winners

    Joel Matip:

    Where else to start but with the matchwinner? Matip hadn't started for Liverpool since the opening weekend of the season, but he marked his return to the XI in fine style here, his 90th-minute header blowing the roof off Anfield and ensuring the Reds are back in control of their European destiny.

    This was a good snapshot of what the former Cameroon international brings to this Reds team. Defensively he was superb, stepping forward with the ball, reading the game expertly and rarely losing an aerial duel.

    Then, with the clock ticking down, he was there to meet Tsimikas' corner flush to send the Kop wild.

    Welcome back.

    Mohamed Salah:

    You can't keep the world's best players down for long. Salah's start to the season has, like Liverpool's, been a mixed one, but this was much more like it from the Egyptian.

    He buried the first chance that came his way, latching onto Diogo Jota's pass and finishing sharply on his left foot after 17 minutes. It was exactly what Jurgen Klopp will have wanted to see, his forwards linking up to devastating effect, with Salah profiting centrally instead of being marooned on the right flank as in recent weeks.

    When he drift wide, however, he was also dangerous, willing to run at Daley Blind and ask questions of the former Manchester United man. Meanwhile, he showed - as he always does, to be fair - his selflessness and team ethic by chasing back 60 yards to help stop an Ajax counter-attack.

    All in all, a welcome step in the right direction for the Reds' star man.

    Mohammed Kudus:

    Two games, two left-footed finishes of unerring quality, plenty of reasons to get excited about Kudus.

    The Ghanaian is certainly making his mark on the Champions League this season. His goal here looked to have grabbed his side a priceless away point, only for Matip to go and spoil the party late on.

    Kudus was a target for Everton in the summer, only for Ajax to block the move. How glad they must be that they did. The 22-year-old is a top prospect, and one whose name may well be finding its way into the minds of Liverpool's scouting and recruitment team after this.

  • Jurgen Klopp Darwin Nunez 2022-23

    The Losers

    Darwin Nunez:

    The chance was there, and it would have been some goal too. Liverpool, for once in the second half, opened Ajax up, with Joel Matip, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah all combining.

    Salah rolled the ball invitingly into the path of Nunez, who had only been on the field 14 minutes, but the Uruguayan fluffed his lines, scuffing his effort wide of Remko Pasveer's right-hand post.

    It looked like it would cost his side, only for Matip to save the day. Nunez, in fairness, made an impact after coming on alongside Roberto Firmino, but he still looks like a player playing with tension at times.

    He could do with a goal, but Liverpool don't play again until October 1.

    Joe Gomez:

    It feels harsh to single out a player who didn't even play, but when the man who replaces you performs as Matip did here, and then ends the night the hero, then you have to wonder what Gomez was thinking.

    Last week, he was terrorised in Naples, unable to cope with the Italians' speed and movement. It was no surprise that Matip came in for this game, and it is unavoidable that Liverpool looked far more secure with him alongside Virgil van Dijk.

    Gomez will come again, for sure, but for now he has lost his shirt, again.

    The noisy minority:

    Anfield paid its respects to Queen Elizabeth II prior to kick off, as the stadium fell silent for a short period.

    Silent, that is, except for a few isolated idiots, intent on making themselves heard when nobody wanted them to. It was not what anyone needed, not Liverpool, not Ajax, and not the majority inside the stadium who kept quiet.

    No doubt there will be some who look to make a bigger deal of it than necessary. Some will have been desperate for Liverpool fans to show themselves up. As it was, it was only a handful who did.

    The trouble is, the noise of an idiot will always be heard.

  • Virgil van Dijk Liverpool 2022-23

    Liverpool Ratings: Defence

    Alisson (7/10):

    Played some of his side's best passes in the first half. Beaten emphatically by Kudus but immaculate otherwise.

    Trent Alexander-Arnold (6/10):

    Ajax's equaliser came down his side, and a little too easily as well. Did fine otherwise, including a few excellent tackles on Bergwijn in the second half.

    Joel Matip (8/10):

    His ability to step into midfield was helpful, and he defended on the front foot well. Might have pulled the trigger when well-placed on the edge of the box a few times in the second half. Oh, and he scored the winner too, of course.

    Virgil van Dijk (6/10):

    Stood off Kudus in the box and was punished. Otherwise did what he needed to.

    Kostas Tsimikas (7/10):

    Had his hands full with the experienced Tadic but defended stoutly and put some decent balls into the box, including the one which led to the winning goal.

  • Thiago Liverpool Ajax 2022-23

    Midfield

    Fabinho (7/10):

    Looked happier with Thiago next to him, and had some snap back in his challenges.

    Thiago Alcantara (8/10):

    Back in the starting XI, he showed how much his absence has been felt. Always in control and able to take an extra touch before finding the right pass. Perhaps tired in the second half, but that was understandable. What he provided for his team was superb.

    Harvey Elliott (6/10):

    Bright and purposeful on the ball, though clearly still learning the positional side of the game as a midfielder. His tidiness is an asset.

  • Diogo Jota Liverpool Ajax 2022-23

    Attack

    Mohamed Salah (8/10):

    Took the first chance that came his way and looked so much more dangerous than in recent weeks. If Liverpool are to emerge from their slump, they need more of this from their talisman.

    Diogo Jota (7/10):

    Making his first start since May, he provided an assist for Salah and brought urgency to the Reds' press. He still needs a goal, but he played well here and showed what a big role he has to play.

    Luis Diaz (7/10):

    His competitive instincts are needed at a time like this. Never stopped running and kept all of Ajax's defenders nervous as a result.

  • Jurgen Klopp Liverpool 2022-23

    Subs & Manager

    Roberto Firmino (6/10):

    Helped set up a chance for Nunez.

    Darwin Nunez (5/10):

    Missed a big chance to win it for his side late on, but put himself about and at least threatened.

    James Milner (N/A):

    On late to secure the win.

    Stefan Bajcetic (N/A):

    Champions League debut in stoppage time.

    Jurgen Klopp (7/10):

    Got the reaction he wanted in terms of energy and pressing. Jota was the right selection, and so was Matip. Subs made a difference.