It was a journey from disgrace to respectability. This is history Liverpoolgroup starting with the worst result of Jurgen Klopp’s reign, before a four-game winning streak was such a good save that qualification was secured with one game to go. That was the theme of Liverpool’s evening as a woeful first 35 minutes gave way to an emphatic victory over Ajax.

It was a story Darwin Nunesevening too. His first half produced an extraordinary miss, the second a more memorable result, but the Uruguayan’s fourth goal in five games was the second of three scored by Liverpool in an 11-minute spell.

Cool strikes came thanks to Mohamed Salah and Harvey Elliottas Ajax followed Barcelona, ​​the other semi-finalists in 2019, by exiting at the pool stage, Liverpool ensured they would reach the last 16, albeit almost certainly finishing second to all-conquering Napoli .

It is also a triumph for Salah. He was terrible at Napoli, outclassed by Hvica Kvaratchelia, substituted without playing and only Luis Diaz was a threat. However, since then he has scored six goals in four games, including League of championsfastest hat trick. Liverpool’s progress stems from his predatory prowess.

The cliché is that goals change games, but some shots do. Liverpool were disjointed and awful, and there could possibly have been two runs to two glorious touches.

The first came from the man who captained Liverpool for the 250th time. Jordan Henderson is more a craftsman than an artist, but he was a passer of great delicacy and invention, whipped with the outside of the right boot into Salah’s path. The Egyptian’s first-time finish was similarly carefree, a deft click rather than a jab.

However, when Salah was relegated to the background, it was because Nunez managed to induce a miss for the ages. It was an open goal and, as it was only in the six-yard box, one of the easiest. But after Andy Robertson’s burst and Roberto Firmino’s unselfish pass, Nunez fired home.

But redemption of sorts came quickly. Liverpool prey on Ajax’s weaknesses from the standard pieces at Anfield; then it set up Joel Matip’s winner and put them out of reach in Amsterdam when Nunes gave Robertson’s corner too much room to head. Once again he hit the post; this time it was the inside of the post and the ball went in.

Nunes celebrated Liverpool’s second goal after an unbelievable miss earlier


And Firmino got the pass he deserved earlier. Elliott scored his second goal in as many games at this level, curling in from an acute angle after the Brazilian, in acres of space, produced a defence-splitting pass. It meant that, while Liverpool are yet to win away from home in the Premier League this season, their last two trips to the Champions League were a combined 10-1.

It could have been more had Klopp not taken the opportunity to rest and turn around. Stefan Baicetic, to whom he owes his place in the Champions League misdiagnosis that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita are not fit for the group stage, 20 minutes were given. Nunes, Elliott and Henderson were among those who gave way,

Ajax, meanwhile, have conceded 13 goals in their last three matches at this level. Their previous home match had been ignominious in a 6-1 thrashing of Napoli and they started with the look of a side eager to prove a point. There was a touch of flair when Edson Alvarez sent Firmino and Nunez running the wrong way with Cruyff’s cutest turn; when executed so expertly, it is not sacrilegious to perform the Cruyff move at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

Ajax started by withdrawing Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, making room in an open midfield in which Steven Berghuis had license to roam. He shot wide and Dusan Tadic had one shot that was decisively blocked by Aleksandar-Arnold, but the best chance came first.

Salah opened the scoring after a superb cross from Jordan Henderson

(Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

And in a match where each side hit the woodwork when they should have scored, a valuable waste was made by Ajax. Supported by Brian Brobbie, Berghuis hit the post. It was only the third minute and for a Liverpool side who conceded the first to Arsenal and the fifth to Napoli, it seemed to add to their poor starts.

They were sloppy. Klop had it reverted to 4-3-3 after six matches, playing 4-4-2 options but that was no explanation for their original struggle. Neither their dreadful third kit, which they wore for the first time, nor Ajax’s wonderfully silly pre-match playlist were considered mitigating factors against the real Liverpool, who Virgil van Dijk demanded before the gamewas introduced by Henderson and Salah.

And in the second European match in a row, they collected a quick treble. After Salah a record hat-trick in Glasgow three quick goals came, making for a stunning miss. Embarrassed at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, Liverpool prevailed at a ground named after another all-time great, Cruyff.