Liverpool 2-1 Ajax: Matip rescues Reds as late winner lifts Klopp and Kop
Joel Matip was the Liverpool hero as his thumping late header handed the Reds a much-needed 2-1 win over Ajax at Anfield on Tuesday.
The defender secured three priceless Champions League points with his 89th-minute heroics, a huge relief for boss Jurgen Klopp after last week's 4-1 humbling by Napoli.
Mohamed Salah earlier ended a seven-game goal drought in the competition to nudge Liverpool ahead, but Ajax were level before the half-hour mark as Mohammed Kudus capped a 26-pass spell of possession.
Ajax went close through Daley Blind late on, but Matip was more precise as his header crossed the line despite Dusan Tadic's desperate attempts to keep it out.
The hosts edged ahead in the 18th minute as Alisson's kick reached Luis Diaz, who found Diogo Jota. From a central position, Jota fed the eager Salah, who lashed past Remko Pasveer and into the bottom-right corner.
Diaz and Jota went close as Liverpool threatened to add to their opener, but the Reds were caught out by a rapid Ajax break down the left, which culminated with Kudus' sublime finish into the top-left corner.
Pasveer saved well from Virgil van Dijk's header, and then denied Trent Alexander-Arnold twice in quick succession before the interval.
Both Van Dijk and Matip then headed over the crossbar from set-pieces as Liverpool kept up the pressure after the break, but Blind almost stunned Anfield from Tadic's right-wing cross when he nodded a foot wide of the right post.
Liverpool substitute Darwin Nunez shot wide with seven minutes remaining, but Matip came good with time running out, rising to meet Tsimikas' corner and power the ball towards goal.
While Tadic nodded away, the former Southampton man was a foot behind the line when doing so, and the relief inside Anfield was obvious as the goal was awarded.
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Liverpool play Rangers home and away in early October, when Ajax also face Napoli in back-to-back fixtures as Group A begins to take shape.
The importance of Matip's goal should be obvious after those games.
For now, it marked the difference between Liverpool being three points behind Ajax, a prospect which was looming, and the reality of them sitting alongside the Dutch giants on three points.
Without carving out too many outstanding chances, Liverpool had 24 goal attempts in this game, which is the joint-highest total for any team so far in a single game in this season's Champions League.
Ajax, meanwhile, have seen their run of seven Champions League group stage wins come to an end. Only Bayern Munich were on a longer streak of wins in the groups.
Kudos for Kudus masterpiece
The finish was enough to leave any observer open-mouthed, but Ajax had also strung together 26 passes in the build-up to their equaliser.
Since Opta began collecting such data for the Champions League in 2003-04, this was the most passes before any Ajax goal in the competition.
Ajax only had two first-half goal attempts, but on this occasion the possession play paid off in grand style. It looked like being worth a point, but Matip had other ideas.
Van Dijk and Matip take a step forward
Liverpool's centre-backs were prowling threats to Ajax, particularly in the second half.
They appeared reluctant at times to take shots, but Van Dijk still managed a team-high four goal attempts, while Matip tried his luck three times.
Van Dijk told BT Sport after the game: "I should have scored. We felt like we were dangerous at every set-piece, especially the corners, so it was our responsibility to at least convert one, and luckily the one and only Joel Matip did it."
Matip's winner was his 10th goal in all competitions for Liverpool. The Reds have avoided defeat on every occasion he has found the net (W9 D1).
Domestic postponements following the death of Queen Elizabeth II mean Liverpool are without a game until after the international break, when they host Brighton in the Premier League on October 1. Ajax face AZ in the Eredivisie on Sunday.