Back in 1966, Liverpool visited Amsterdam and the evening was foggy and from the fog, a legend named Johan Cruyff was born. Last night, at Amsterdam, there was no fog, but the overcast conditions were evident over the state of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team. After being jolted by Aston Villa, they were heavily shaken at Goodison Park by VAR and the injury to their big man – Virgil van Dijk aka VVD. Over the years, VVD has been one of the vital cogs in Liverpool’s rejuvenation. Without him, certainly, the backline of Liverpool look fragile.
In the absence of @VirgilvDijk, the responsibility to guard the Liverpool back line was up to @_fabinhotavares and he put up a gallant display in Amsterdam. That goal line clearance would be talked about in years to come. pic.twitter.com/YpCo1dtSym
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) October 22, 2020
Ajax are a different kettle of fish in Amsterdam and despite losing many of the stars of that eventful campaign in 2018-19, their forward line has some promising youngsters who could exploit any loopholes in the defence of the opposition.
Amsterdam is a tough venue for the visiting teams and given the current state of the Reds, Klopp would have been thinking of avoiding a defeat rather than bagging full points. But he took the flight to Anfield with full points and surely, the Liverpool backline played a huge part in this Joe Gomez with his new partner at the center-back position, Fabinho weathered the storm with enough calm and composure.
Luck played its part in Liverpool’s victory with the Ajax defender Nicolas Tagliafico settling the outcome with an outlandish own goal. Klopp will feel it overdue given the injuries that dominated the buildup and shaped his team selection.
“The medical department made the lineup pretty much,” he said. But there was determination and resilience in the visitors’ performance, typified by Fabinho denying Dusan Tadic an equalizer with a spectacular overhead clearance on his goal-line.
Fabinho vs Ajax
• 84% passing
• 41/49 passes
• 3/4 aerial duels
• 4/4 tackles
• 9 clearances
• 4 interceptions
• Not dribbled past
• Clean sheet
• Goal line clearance pic.twitter.com/V986sF40Hy
— cricketsoccer (@cricketsoccer) October 22, 2020
Yes, Fabinho was outstanding last night and it was much-needed because it was one of those nights where the Liverpool frontline failed to cut a satisfactory figure, and to keep the fight going they needed a leader and it was Fabinho who led from the front.
Fabinho, starting at the heart of the backline, relished a brilliant night for Liverpool.
Filling in for the injured VVD, the Brazilian stepped up to the plate to ensure the Dutchman isn’t missed. His excellent positional awareness and distribution skills kept everything sound at the back.
Fabinho initiated five of Liverpool's nine counter-attacks against Ajax.pic.twitter.com/faCOjUCdsE
— The Tactical Times (@Tactical_Times) October 22, 2020
The wonderful goal-line clearance in the first half is what has everyone raving about his performance. Fabinho read the danger and got back quickly to clear Tadic’s chipped effort off the line to keep the score 1-0.
“Was there pressure on that situation tonight? Yes,” said Klopp of his central defensive problems. “It’s clear for the two in the back as it was their first game together, I think. Fabinho can play the position, he likes playing it actually. If I asked him to play right‑back, I don’t think he would enjoy it as much. In our situation, we have to keep the boys fit. But I’m really pleased for tonight. It gave him confidence for sure.”
This was some goal-line clearance from Fabinho! ⛔️
A vital one too, with Liverpool beating Ajax 1-0 in Amsterdam… pic.twitter.com/EbJ3QQYer2
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 21, 2020
“It was good but even Fabinho can play better. Joe and Fabinho need to get used to each other, they need to get used to the verbal demands of the position and helping the midfield. It was a good performance but there is a lot to improve, and that is good. It was absolutely good tonight.”
Klopp admitted Liverpool required “a bit of luck” to keep a clean sheet with Fabinho’s clearance and Davy Klaassen, the former Everton midfielder, striking a post in the second half.
“We don’t hang the clean sheet too high because there were two situations where we were far away from perfect,” he said.
The Reds need not worry about VVD’s lengthy absence as long as Fabinho continues to deliver in this fashion.