Liverpool’s Curtis Jones scores a goal during the UEFA Champions League 1st round Group D matchagainst Ajax at Anfield in Liverpool, UK, December 1, 2020. /CFP
Teenager Curtis Jones grabbed a 58th-minute winner as an injury-hit Liverpool qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League with a 1-0 win over Ajax Amsterdam at Anfield on Tuesday.
The victory ensured top spot in Group D for Juergen Klopp’s side with 12 points after rivals Atalanta were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Midtjylland.
Ajax, with seven points, are a point adrift of second-placed Atalanta and need victory over the Italians in their final group game to reach the last 16.
Besides Jones, Klopp had another youngster to thank for their win as the 22-year-old goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher produced a vital save in the final stages of his Champions League debut.
Kelleher had been drafted in after first choice Alisson Becker became the latest addition to Liverpool’s lengthy injury list with a scan revealing a hamstring strain.
With Neco Williams in at right back and Jones in midfield there was a youthful feel to Liverpool, with experienced alternatives in short supply.
Jones rattled a shot against the post in the sixth minute after being set-up by Mohamed Salah but Ajax fought their way into the game with former Everton midfielder Davy Klaassen proving influential.
Kelleher was called into action in the 32nd minute as he tipped over a blast from Noussair Mazraoui.
After the break, Klaassen missed a decent chance, heading wide at the near post, and the Dutch side should have gone ahead when David Neres struck the post after Kelleher had pushed out a Mazraoui effort.
Then came the decisive moment – Ajax keeper Andre Onana badly misjudged a cross from Williams and allowed the ball to float over his head where the 19-year-old Jones did well to guide it home at the back post.
Kelleher completed a memorable debut when he pulled off a vital save in the final minutes to keep out a header from Ajax’s veteran substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
“It was an amazing one for me, to make my debut in a Champions League game was massive and we got the win and qualified. A great night,” said the Irish keeper.
“That’s what I’m there for, I work every day in training to make sure I am ready and I was able to make a good few saves.”
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling (L) and FC Porto’s Zaidu Sanusi in action during the UEFA Champions League Group C stage match in Porto, Portugal, December 1, 2020. /CFP
Elsewhere, FC Porto joined Manchester City in advancing to the next phase of the Champions League after the two played out a goalless draw in their Group C clash.
The point, combined with defeat for Olympiakos in France, was enough to ensure Porto finished second while City, who had already qualified last week, are assured of top place.
With one round left to play, City are on 13 points, three more than Porto – with both well clear of Olympiakos and Olympique Marseille, who have three points each.
City will finish their campaign at home to Marseille next week while Porto travel to Olympiakos in another dead rubber.