As group leaders, Liverpool secured passage to the Champions League knockout stages as they won a 1-0 victory over Ajax.
A second-half goal from teenager Curtis Jones ensured that on Wednesday the Reds would advance to the next level, while academy prospect Caoimhin Kelleher was needed to make a spectacular late save from Klaas Jan Huntelaar to protect the points at Anfield, given his chance at goal.
For Jurgen Klopp and co, too, better was yet to come, as news of Atalanta’s shock draw with Midtjylland meant that top spot was clinched with a game to spare in Group D.
In the form of a hamstring problem for Alisson, Liverpool had been hit by yet another injury blow, ensuring Kelleher was handed his debut in the Champions League, preferred to Adrian.
During a powerful start from the hosts that saw fellow youngster Jones crack the post from afar, the 22-year-old was initially a virtual spectator.
3 – At 19 years and 306 days old, Curtis Jones is the third youngest goalscorer for Liverpool in the Champions League after David N'Gog (19y 252d) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (19y 10d). Instinct. pic.twitter.com/Kzzjuy0TQ5
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 1, 2020
However, Ajax developed into the game as it progressed and through Noussair Mazraoui’s thunderous effort from the edge of the box, called Kelleher into action on the half-hour mark.
Shortly after the break, the Irishman should have been checked again, but instead he saw Davy Klaassen head a glorious opportunity wide from a well-worked free-kick.
And moments later, Ajax went even closer, David Neres hitting the post from a tight angle after following up on Mazraoui’s parried strike.
They were made to regret those mistakes almost immediately, too.
The deep left-footed cross of Neco Williams seemed to be leading to nothing but a terrible misjudgment by goalkeeper Andre Onana allowed Jones to poke the ball home at the back post from a close angle.
While Onana was more impressive in smothering Salah and saving well from replacement Roberto Firmino, the harm to Ajax was done, who now had to beat Atalanta on matchday six to advance after Kelleher instinctively repelled the close-range header of Huntelaar.