“Maybe we need to say that more often!” Robertson reveals half-time pep talk for Nunez as Liverpool beat Ajax 3-0
Mohamed Salah continued his excellent run in the Champions League to help Liverpool secure their spot in the last-16 with a 3-0 win over Ajax.
Liverpool went into the game against Ajax knowing a point would have been enough to seal their spot in the knockout stages and after a difficult first half the Reds truly turned on the style to romp to victory in Amsterdam. They now go into their final game against Napoli knowing top spot is still on the cards, though they will need a big win vs the Italians.
Although Salah hasn’t had the greatest of campaigns by his own high standards in the Premier League, the Egyptian has been showing up in the Champions League, dragging Liverpool at times. The Egyptian opened the scoring in the reverse fixture against Ajax, finished off the 2-0 win over Rangers and then came off the bench to score a hat-trick against the latter, netting five of Liverpool’s 12 Champions League goals ahead of this week.
Opening the scoring once again on Wednesday night, Salah moved onto six Champions League goals for the season, level with Kylian Mbappe at the top of the Golden Boot charts. Salah’s six goals have come in fewer minutes too, putting him just ahead of the Frenchman. And Salah wasn’t done there.
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No, he didn’t add to his tally to move outright top of the Golden Boot standings, but Salah did set up Harvey Elliott for Liverpool’s third (after Darwin Nunez had doubled their advanced). The assist was Salah’s 12th in the Champions League for Liverpool, with no Reds player managing more in the club’s history.
Salah is level on 12 alongside Steven Gerrard, James Milner and Roberto Firmino, and looks the most likely to move onto 13 first.
But the night was also a big one for Nunez. As part of Liverpool’s underwhelming first-half showing, Nunez missed an opportunity from inside the six-yard box, diverting his shot onto the post from Roberto Firmino’s pass. It was a miss that pretty much summed up Nunez’s time at Liverpool so far, with the Uruguayan suffering a lot of misfortune in front of goal.
While some strikers may have let that affect their confidence, it appeared to have motivated Nunez and he doubled Liverpool’s lead with an excellent header following Andrew Robertson’s cross. And the Scot revealed a half-time chat with his teammate may have brought that goal.
“Darwin was in at half-time really angry at himself, disappointed with himself at not taking that chance,” Robertson told BT Sport.
“I sat next to him in the changing room, I don’t know if he understood a word I said, but I said I’ll put a cross on your head and you’ll score no problem. So maybe we need to say that more often!”
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Speaking after the game, Klopp put Liverpool’s slow start down to a change in system which was brought in to try and get Nunez more involved in the match.
“We obviously changed system again a little bit,” he told BT Sport.
“We had to, I thought it would make sense, rather a diamond than a 4-3-3. It’s new for the boys but we didn’t want to have Darwin constantly on the wing, we wanted him more central and that’s why we set it up slightly different, but it’s normal.”
The diamond formation could well get the best out of Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker. As mentioned in our Squawka Scout video, Darwin has thrived player on the left of a narrow frontline for both club and country, operating in a 4-4-2 for Benfica and Uruguay. It looks like Klopp – and Robertson – have picked up on that.
Klopp choosing his system around Nunez will no doubt boost the Uruguayan’s confidence, and former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch believes the fans will help the Uruguayan settle in England too.
He said: “What I will say is that he’s in the best place in the world. If he is struggling for maybe a lack of confidence at times the fans will always be behind him. There are plenty of other fans that would be so quick to turn a striker that cost that amount of money.
“You can see he’s working hard, I think Klopp waxes lyrical about how hard he works for the team defensively and offensively. And the best thing about tonight was he missed a gilt-edged chance, let’s be honest, and then he bounced back and he scored a fantastic header.
“He’s obviously working hard for the team and he’ll get his reward.”