Sport

Qualification for knockout stage should never be taken for granted, says Klopp

Jürgen Klopp said qualification for the Champions League knockout stage should never be taken for granted after Liverpool secured their passage with an ultimately comfortable defeat of Dutch champions Ajax.

Liverpool progressed from their group for a sixth successive season, and with a game to spare, courtesy of goals from Mohamed Salah, Darwin Núñez and Harvey Elliott in Amsterdam. Ajax were the better team until Salah opened the scoring with his 40th European goal for Liverpool and Klopp, full of praise for his team’s tactical response, insisted the achievement of reaching the last 16 was one to savour.

The Liverpool manager said: “Nobody should ever take for granted qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League. We did it again in a game that started off really tricky and that makes victory even sweeter. Ajax are a really good team and we beat them twice. They were the better team for the first 35 minutes, they were more settled than us, which is normal because we changed again slightly and pressed different and we had to get used to that.

“We came through that, one situation where we were lucky and the other with a good block and then we scored our goal, which was brilliant, and the next situation was a sensational football moment but unfortunately we hit the post. Then we scored the two goals in the second half and controlled the game. We are really happy about going to the last 16. It’s great.”

Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson, who created Salah’s opener with a superb pass, was forced off with a knee injury late on but Klopp believes the problem is not serious. “I was worried because it was in front of me,” he said. “But it was knee-on-knee so painful, a bruise, but as far as I know now nothing else. He should be fine.”

Klopp admitted he would have been satisfied with just the draw that Liverpool needed to qualify. But he added: “I’m not sure what is better – to fly through a game, which everyone would like,or to overcome difficulties and develop into your best self like we did today. That stays with us. I would be over the moon if we played 0-0 and got through, it is all about getting through, but we did it winning 3-0 and with wonderful goals.”