By Carl Markham, PA
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits the last-gasp 2-1 Champions League victory over Ajax is only the first step on the road to regaining their form.
Mohamed Salah’s first goal in eight European matches was cancelled out by Mohammed Kudus in the first half and it needed an 89th-minute Joel Matip header to register Liverpool’s first points in Group A after last week’s 4-1 defeat in Naples.
It has been a mixed season so far and, with no match now for three weeks – Sunday’s match at Chelsea has been postponed because of policing issues associated with the Queen’s funeral – Klopp has time to regroup ready for their return after the international break.
“I think if we put the two games, Napoli and tonight, next to each other, you don’t recognise properly that it’s the same sport,” he said.
“It was all different. The start was different. The middle was different. The finish was different. The way we played, the way we defend, everything was different. Much higher intensity, much more aggression, braver, more ready, everything was better.
“The story of the game is typical, not for our season so far because normally we are 1-0 down, more for the situation we are in.
“We did a lot of good stuff and played a really good game, we had something like 25 shots, which is good against a strong side full of confidence, absolutely convinced about the way they play, and we caused them a lot of problems.
“And then, 1-0 up, you concede with the first chance of the opponent the equaliser. The reaction was OK – not perfect but OK – and at half-time we told the boys that after the goal our pressing was not as convincing as before.
“I think nobody was surprised it was a set-piece (for the winner) because our set-pieces were really good tonight and I have no idea why we didn’t score earlier from them because pretty much each set-piece was a threat.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 13, 2022
“The face of Joel showed exactly how we all felt in this moment. It’s the first step, nothing else, not more.”
Sunday’s postponement, coming on the back of the wholesale postponement of the football calendar last weekend, means Liverpool have two matches to fit into an already-crowded schedule with a World Cup in the middle.
So Klopp was less-than-impressed with Chelsea’s new American owner Todd Boehly’s suggestion earlier in the day that the Premier League should introduce a US-style All-Star game between teams in the north and south of England.
“He doesn’t wait long. When he finds a date for that he can call me,” he added.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 13, 2022
“In American sports these players have four-month breaks. Does he want to bring the Harlem Globetrotters as well?
“Maybe he can explain that. I’m not sure people want to see that – United players, Liverpool players, City players, Everton players all together. It is not the national team. Did he really say it?”
Ajax coach Alfred Schreuder admits his side, who scored four against Rangers in their opening game, have learned some important lessons.
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— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) September 13, 2022
“When the goal happens with a dead-ball situation it’s quite sour. We have lots of young players and they can learn a lesson from that,” he said.
“I can live with the defeat, of course. I can’t say it was underserved. Liverpool were the better team this evening, there’s no shame in that, but you have to learn from that.
“We have to look at what we can do better. We will have a look further at the intensity, we don’t have that in the Dutch League, it’s quicker at this level. It’s a learning moment for us.”