Anfield was empty, the Liverpool team depleted by injury and it was hardly a vintage performance but the 1-0 win over Ajax Amsterdam on Tuesday still left manager Jurgen Klopp bursting with pride.
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“Honestly since I was at Liverpool that feels like one of the biggest Champions League nights. Without supporters in, it was the most important, most difficult, most exceptional,” he said.
“With the circumstances, there hasn’t been much to smile about, it’s been tricky, and the boys throw themselves into the game,” said the German after his side secured top spot in Group D.
“Robbo [Andy Robertson] has a proper knock on the ankle and pushes himself through, Hendo [Jordan Henderson] with a sore back, Gini [Georginio Wijnaldum] — I have no words for him. Curtis Jones, what a game, It’s amazing, I’m really proud.”
The 19-year-old Jones got the second-half winner and was one of the brightest players in the midfield battle.
“Curtis is a really good kid, a good player and I am happy to have him around. Sometimes with injuries there is always an opportunity and he has taken it,” he said.
Klopp had another injury headache to contend with before the game, with keeper Alisson Becker ruled out with a hamstring strain, and Irish Under-21 keeper Caoimhin Kelleher was picked ahead of the more experience Adrian.
“I really think Adrian has done a fantastic job for us, he kept a lot of clean sheets, played everywhere. But now we needed the natural football playing ability of Caoimhin Kelleher. He is a good shot stopper as well. We made that decision but you never know how they are going to cope. I am really happy with how calm he was and how good he was,” said Klopp.
Kelleher made a vital save in the closing moments to make sure of the three points.
“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,” he said.
“It was an amazing one for me, to make my Champions League debut was massive and we got the win and qualified. A great night.”