Jurgen Klopp revealed that fitness issues played a major part in his team selection as he hailed a “deserved” Liverpool win over Ajax.
Liverpool kicked off their Champions League campaign by taking three points away to one of the teams most fancied to compete with them for top spot in Group D on Wednesday.
It was by no means a straightforward victory, with the hosts seeing a Dusan Tadic lob cleared off the line by Fabinho – filling in at centre-back in the wake of Virgil van Dijk’s knee injury – and striking the post through Davy Klaassen across an evenly contested 90 minutes.
Speaking after Nicolas Tagliafico’s own goal had given his team the points, Klopp, whose side managed 16 shots in total, explained his job was further complicated by concerns over potential injuries ahead of the game.
As such, he was delighted with a hard-fought win earned in tricky conditions in the Dutch capital.
“It was not the most easy on the eye performance from both teams, I would say,” Klopp told a news conference.
“Both teams can play much better football but especially in this competition when you play away [there are] a lot of difficulties.
“Pretty much the medical team made the line-up and then you have to win the game and that’s what the boys did and I think that was deserved, even when we had to clear one ball from the line and when they hit the post.
“Of course, they had their moments, but apart from that we were pretty dominant on a difficult pitch for both teams. Everybody knows Ajax is usually a brilliant football team but tonight it was really tricky, the passing was difficult.
“So, you could see that, but we won the game and I am completely fine.”
— Gini Wijnaldum (@GWijnaldum) October 21, 2020
Klopp went to explain that Jordan Henderson’s half-time introduction was a consequence of his medical staff advising against the skipper playing 90 minutes.
However, he had positive news on Sadio Mane, who was seen applying ice to his leg after being taken off around the hour mark.
He continued: “Curtis [Jones] was tactical. The medical department told us Hendo cannot start and it was pretty much clear 45 minutes should be possible, that’s why Hendo came on.
“We wanted experience, a midfield that had at least played a few times together, which helps in a game like this.
“Sadio has since a few days a dead leg. That’s the only thing why it’s still painful but it’s not a problem. When he doesn’t play, he puts ice on it.”
Liverpool’s win means the Reds have gone unbeaten in their last 14 matches against Dutch opponents in European competition, since a 5-1 defeat to Ajax in December 1966.
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