Football: Liverpool ‘feel great’ again after reaching Champions League last 16

Harvey Elliott (left) celebrates scoring Liverpool's third goal with striker Roberto Firmino. PHOTO: AFP

AMSTERDAM – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is hoping Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Ajax Amsterdam, which allowed them to advance to the last 16 of the Champions League, can help lift his side’s sluggish English Premier League form.

The Reds have now won as many Champions League games this season as they have in 11 Premier League matches after a fourth consecutive European win in Amsterdam.

Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Harvey Elliott were on target as they reached the knockout stage for a sixth consecutive season.

“We are through to the knockouts and I will never take that for granted,” said Klopp. “Really helpful for the club, of course it gives the lift. Tonight we all feel great and we have a few days to prepare for Leeds.”

Liverpool still have a mountain to climb next week when Napoli visit Anfield if they are to finish top of Group A. They trail the Italians by three points and need to better Napoli’s 4-1 win when the sides met in September to get the better of the head-to-head record.

Defeat ends Ajax’s chances of reaching the next round and the Dutch champions were left to rue their inability to take advantage of a fast start as they flew out of the traps and nearly scored in just the second minute.

The contrasting form of Klopp’s men between domestic and European action is reflected in Salah’s scoring record. Of the Egyptian’s 10 goals this season, six have come in the Champions League as he produced a cool finish over Remko Pasveer from Jordan Henderson’s through ball.

Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah jumps for the ball as Ajax’s Dutch goalkeeper Remko Pasveer (left) looks on. PHOTO: AFP

The visitors should have been out of sight before half-time but for an astonishing miss from Nunez, who hit the post with the goal gaping from Roberto Firmino’s unselfish pass.

Nunez has had a roller-coaster start to his career with the Reds after a €75 million (S$106 million) move from Benfica and he quickly made amends after the break, rising highest to power Andy Robertson’s corner in off the far post on 49 minutes.

“Darwin was really angry with himself at half-time,” said Robertson. “I sat next to him and told him I would put a cross in to his head for him to score.”

Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez (left) heads the ball to score his team’s second goal. PHOTO: AFP

Three minutes later, Liverpool were cruising when Salah picked out the run of Elliott, who fired high past Pasveer. With another five games still to come before the World Cup break, a commanding lead meant Liverpool could take their foot off the gas in the final half-hour with Nunez, Fabinho and Henderson among those handed a rest by Klopp. AFP

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