Young people impress Klopp
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side are currently being tested within their limits, but the performances of three youngsters in the 1-0 win over Ajax on Tuesday night will have thrilled the manager.
Neco Williams assisted Curtis Jones to capitalize on Ajax goalkeeper Victor Onana’s mistake and finish cleanly at the far post for the only goal of the game. At the other end of the field, the young goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher was impeccable as a replacement for injured Alisson.
It seemed like an important performance from Williams given he was substituted at half-time against Brighton on Saturday. The resulting hamstring injury to James Milner, which Klopp had preferred to pass to the right-back rather than allow the young Welshman to continue, means it will now be up to him to fill the void left by Trent Alexander-Arnold. He responded in style.
Thanks to Kelleher’s efforts, Williams was also able to celebrate her role in a clean sheet. It would have been easy for Klopp to turn to the much more experienced Adrian, but his faith in the 22-year-old Irishman was absolutely justified. Kelleher produced a complete save in the first half, but it was his save to keep Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s header from staying at close range that secured the victory which ensures Liverpool qualified as Group D winners with a game to lose.
This will ease the pressure in Denmark next week and allow Klopp to refocus on the team’s Premier League campaign. Liverpool can now do it with the belief that despite all the injury issues they are a bit deeper side than many had thought.
But these injuries keep coming …
Even so, while Klopp will have been comforted by the victory, and feeling more confident in the MPs’ abilities, it was still an evening in which we found out Liverpool could do without Alisson for the Wolves visit. this week-end.
The Brazilian goalkeeper has been an important figure in Liverpool’s success from the moment he arrived and if Klopp is without his first-choice goalkeeper on Sunday he will need his team to improve his record in the competition without him so far. this season – that 7-2 loss to Aston Villa and the 2-2 draw with Everton.
At least Andrew Robertson continues to fight. The left-back suffered a heavy blow in the first half against Ajax and it looked like Liverpool would play the rest of the game without their first-choice full-back four as well as their goalkeeper.
The fact that Robertson not only continued but shone in the second half is a testament to his appetite for the fight. Liverpool are going to need him – and that spirit – if they are to get through this difficult time.
Dec 5: Wolves (h)
Wed Dec 9: Midtjylland (a)
Sun 13 December: Fulham (a) – live on Sky Sports
Wed Dec 16: Tottenham (h)
Saturday December 19: Crystal Palace (a)
Sun Dec 27: West Brom (h) – live on Sky Sports
Man City’s defense shines
Since Vincent Kompany left Man City 18 months ago, one could rarely claim that Pep Guardiola’s side were strong defensively, or at least consistently. However, the transformation of the Man City backline is finally paying off, especially in Europe.
Man City have kept four consecutive clean sheets in the Champions League for the first time, as many as they have managed in the group stage in their last two campaigns combined – a truly incredible turnaround.
City limited Porto to just two shots, 31.9% possession and the hosts had no corners, although it was clear the hosts had set themselves up to defend against a Man City side who often sees the majority of the ball. Ruben Dias continues to impress at the back after his summer arrival with Eric Garcia and Oleksander Zinchenko also given their chance to claim.
But take a quick look at the bench, and you had people like Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, and Nathan Ake all waiting backstage. They were joined by John Stones, who deserves to be commended on his recent turnaround in form.
Going forward will be more worrying. This is the first time they have a goalless draw in the Champions League group stage, but they have managed 18 shots. The credit also goes to the man of the match Agustin Marchesin, but Guardiola’s teams have never been shy.
In the end, Man City needed a point to make sure they finish as group leaders, and that’s exactly what they did. With that job done so far, they now need to bring more of that defensive solidity to the Premier League, especially against local rivals Manchester United on Saturday 12 December, live on Sky Sports.
Man City Calendar
Dec 5: Fulham (h)
Wed Dec 9: Marseilles (h)
Sat December 12: Man Utd (a) – live on Sky Sports
Tuesday December 15: West Brom (h)
Saturday December 19: Southampton (a)
Tuesday December 22: Arsenal (a) – live on Sky Sports