Curtis Jones struck the winner as Liverpool booked a spot in the Champions League Last 16 with a narrow 1-0 victory over Ajax at Anfield.
The 19-year-old midfielder hooked home just shy of the hour after an error from visiting stopper Andre Onana.
It was ironic to see a mistake from the most experienced goalkeeper on the pitch after the Reds were dealt a pre-match blow with the news their first-choice goalkeeper Alisson was out with a minor hamstring problem.
Jurgen Klopp turned to rookie keeper Caoimhin Kelleher, who gave an excellent account of himself on just his fifth first-team appearance for the club.
Jones hit the post early on as both sides looked to attack in what was a lively but goalless first period.
Ajax dominated after the restart but couldn’t make it count. Davy Klaassen headed wide before David Neres hit the woodwork on the follow-up after Kelleher had denied Noussair Mazraoui.
Caoimhin Kelleher impressed for Liverpool
Image credit: Getty Images
It was a costly miss as a minute later Onana misjudged Neco Williams’ cross to allow Jones to sneak in and touch home the only goal of the contest.
The result means Liverpool finish top of Group D on 12 points, with Atalanta second on eight. Ajax are in third on seven while bottom-placed FC Midtjylland picked up their first point of the pool in Italy.
Next up, Liverpool welcome Wolves to Anfield on Sunday night before signing off this group away to FC Midtjylland next Wednesday in a match where Klopp can now afford to rest some of his star names. Ajax host Atalanta in a clash that will decide who joins the Reds in the knockout stage.
Liverpool’s young guns step up. It had looked like being another night for stories of injury woe for Klopp. The Reds were without Alisson while Andy Robertson needed strapping on an ankle issue early in the proceedings. However, the Scot played the full game as the Merseysiders got the job done.
That was thanks in no small part to some of the younger players Klopp drafted in. Kelleher hadn’t featured for just under 10 months and this was a huge jump in standard from the FA Cup replay with League One Shrewsbury. The Irish keeper joined Liverpool’s academy in 2015 and the staff at the club’s youth-base will have been delighted to see him shine on the biggest night of his career so far. It won't have gone unnoticed that two other starlets that have come through the ranks starred too. Neco Williams set up Jones for his first ever Champions League goal to cap a fine night all round for the Reds.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool). On an occasion when a measured performance was required to secure the positive result to progress, Liverpool’s Mr Reliable was a calming presence for all around him in a red shirt. Once again showed real leadership, work rate and a super range of passing.
LIVERPOOL: Kelleher 8, N Williams 8, Matip 8, Fabinho 8, Robertson 8, Henderson 8, Wijnaldum 7, Jones 8, Salah 7, Mane 7, Jota 7. Subs: Firmino 7, R Williams n/a.
AJAX: Onana 5, Mazraoui 7, Schuurs 7, Blind 7, Tagliafico 7, Gravenberch 7, Alvarez 6, Klaassen 6, Neres 7, Tadic 7, Antony 7. Subs:Labyad 6, Traore n/a, Huntelaar n/a, Martinez n/a.
6’ - LIVERPOOL HIT THE POST! Jones lets rip with a thumping shot from 18 yards out but sees it crash back off the woodwork.
50’ - AJAX CHANCE! Klaassen nods a free header wide at the near post from a Neres cross.
57’ - AJAX HIT THE POST! Neres hits the post on the follow-up after Kelleher had denied Mazraoui.
58’ - GOAL! – Liverpool 1-0 Ajax. Onana makes a real hash of coming for Williams' deep cross and Jones hooks in at the far post.
63’ - LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Salah almost gets free in the area from Jota's pass, but this time Onana does well to block at his feet.
85’ - LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Wonderful one-touch play from Liverpool. Salah plays it through for Firmino but Onana is down well to deny him.
89’ - AJAX CHANCE! Kelleher pushes away Huntelaar’s header from point-blank range!
At 19 years and 306 days old, Curtis Jones is the third youngest goalscorer for Liverpool in the Champions League after David N'Gog (19y 252d) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (19y 10d).
Kelleher is the 11th goalkeeper to appear for Liverpool in the Champions League but only the second to keep a clean sheet on his debut for the Reds in the competition, after @ChrisKirkland43 (v Galatasaray in 2002).
Neco Williams' assist for Curtis Jones' goal was the first time two teenagers have combined for a goal in the Champions League for Liverpool.