Liverpool steamroller Ajax to cruise into Champions League last 16
Liverpool shrugged off their Premier League problems to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League with a 3-0 win over Ajax on Wednesday.
Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Harvey Elliott were on target in Amsterdam as the Reds reached the knockout stage for a sixth consecutive season.
Jurgen Klopp’s men still have a mountain to climb next week when Napoli visit Anfield if they are to finish top of Group A.
Liverpool trail the Italians by three points and need to better Napoli’s 4-1 win when the sides met last month to get the better of the head-to-head record.
Defeat ends Ajax’s chances of reaching the last 16 and the Dutch champions were left to rue not taking advantage of a fast start as they flew out the traps.
Steven Berghuis should have opened the scoring after just two minutes when he fired against the post with just Alisson Becker to beat.
Berghuis then shot just wide from range and Dusan Tadic should have done better when he blasted into the body of Trent Alexander-Arnold at the back post.
Liverpool have now won as many Champions League matches this season as they have in 11 Premier League games.
The contrasting form of Jurgen Klopp’s men between domestic and European action is reflected in Salah’s scoring record.
Of the Egyptian’s nine goals this season, six have come in the Champions League as he produced a cool finish over Remko Pasveer from Jordan Henderson’s through ball to settle Liverpool nerves.
The visitors should have been out of sight before half-time but for an astonishing miss from Nunez, who hit the post with the goal gaping from Roberto Firmino’s unselfish pass.
Nunez has had a rollercoaster start to his career with the Reds after a 75 million euro ($74 million) move from Benfica and he quickly made amends after the break.
The Uruguayan rose highest to power Andy Robertson’s corner in off the far post on 49 minutes.
Three minutes later, Liverpool were cruising when Salah picked out the run of Elliott, who fired high past Pasveer from a narrow angle.
Klopp pointed much of the blame for his side’s lack of consistency in the opening months of the season to a catalogue of injuries.
And with another five games still to come before the World Cup break next month, a commanding lead meant the Liverpool could take their foot off the gas in the final half-hour with Nunez, Fabinho and Henderson among those handed a rest by Klopp.