Champions League: Jones seals progress for depleted Liverpool with win over Ajax
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.
As well as Jones, Klopp had another youngster to thank for their win as Ireland Under-21 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.”