Jurgen Klopp described Liverpool’s win over Ajax as one of his most important in Europe as they reached the knockout stage with a game to spare.
The Liverpool manager was moved at the final whistle and paid special attention to goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, goalscorer Curtis Jones and young right-back Neco Williams for the roles they played in securing a 1-0 success which means they won Group D.
Klopp has been involved in dramatic group stage matches at Anfield, against teams such as Paris Saint-Germain, Spartak Moscow and Napoli, but – even without supporters in the stadium – he felt it was comparable in due to the circumstances that Liverpool faced.
Jurgen Klopp described Liverpool’s win over Ajax as one of their biggest wins in Europe
The Reds beat their Dutch opponents 1-0 thanks to Curtis Jones’ goal (above) in the second half
“Honestly, since I’ve been at Liverpool it feels like one of the biggest Champions League nights we (have) had and of course without supporters it was the most important and difficult game and the most exceptional. , Klopp said.
“Hendo got a good punch on the back, Gini (Wijnaldum) played any numbers game, I don’t mean.
“I hope he can continue. We defended like demons. It’s not that we played the best football.
That’s the situation we find ourselves in, that’s what you think and we’re leading the group after day five and we’ve never done it before. It’s unbelievably good.
Klopp was indebted to rookie goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher for his Champions League debut
The Irishman made several crucial saves, including a late Klass-Jan Huntelaar (above)
Klopp hugs Neco Williams and Andy Robertson at the final whistle
Kelleher’s performance, making his Champions League debut, was huge. He made a superb Klass-Jan Huntelaar save in the dying minutes to hold onto Liverpool’s lead and confirmed Klopp’s decision to put him ahead of Adrian to replace crippled Alisson Becker.
“I really think Adrian did an amazing job for us when he came in last season and at the start of the season – I don’t know how many clean sheets,” Klopp said.
The Super Cup final, the Champions League, played everywhere, but in this game we needed Caoimhin’s natural ability to play football and because he is also a very good goalscorer.
“We made this decision and you never know. All the boys are calm by the time they get the information but there is a difference being there on the pitch and I’m really happy with the way he handled it, his composure and his quality. It was a good game.
Kelleher added: “It was amazing. The most important thing was to get the victory.
“Fortunately, I was able to make a few saves. That’s what I’m here for. It’s pretty easy for me because when the players in front of me hand the ball back to me, they always make easy options.
Klopp also praised winner Curtis Jones, who took advantage of a mistake by Andre Onana to give Liverpool all three points.
Curtis Jones was the hero of the night as he scored the only goal to send Liverpool through
The youngster kept his cool to tap from a tight angle after André Onana’s blunder
He said: “He’s a very good kid to be honest. He’s a very good player and I’m really happy to have him around. It is like that sometimes.
“When you have problems there is always an opportunity for someone else and he has taken it exceptionally well and I am really very happy for him.
Klopp also revealed that he shared a few words with teenage right-back Neco Williams, who had put in a great shift just days after getting hooked at Brighton for a scorching first half where he gave a penalty kick .
“We had a long discussion this week. We both thought he had so much more in the locker than he had shown so far, but that’s exactly the situation when it’s the right time for a young boy to come in.
“The season started after a really tough summer with foreclosure and nobody knew when we could continue and a short preseason and then all of a sudden Trent went out with Covid and then [Williams] must play early and was not in the best form in games at that time.
“All the players have these moments. Then you are on the big stage. It’s not easy, but tonight he showed at least glimpses – he can be so much better even – but tonight he showed everything is fine.