James Milner hails ‘big clean sheet’ as Liverpool start Champions League campaign with win at Ajax

Liverpool opened their Champions League campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 win in the rain at Ajax on Wednesday night.

A Nicolas Tagliafico own goal proved the difference at the Johan Cruyff Arena, with the Reds spurning several counter-attacking chances to score a second and the home side going close too, Davy Klaassen hitting the post and Fabinho clearing a Dusan Tadic lob off the line.

James Milner pointed to a good team performance being key to the win in difficult conditions, with much focus from the outside world being on Liverpool’s defence after the injury to Virgil van Dijk, as well as Alisson Becker’s ongoing absence.

“They’re a very good team, well organised and we’ve had an up and down week so it was important we bounced back,” Milner told BT Sport.

“I expected nothing different from this group of players.

“We had enough chances and we’re disappointed not to score especially with the counter-attacks, but it’s a big clean sheet especially with the changes we made and the own goal was enough.”

Fabinho was a standout performer in defence, out from his usual midfield position, and Milner acknowledged the Brazilian is good enough to fill in wherever needed, while also backing Curtis Jones, who made his Champions League debut and was subbed off at the break.

“Top players can adapt, [Fabinho] can do it extremely well – and that was a top clearance.

“But a good team performance, too, I thought; it was a bit like an old-fashioned English game and we managed to grind out the win.

“Curtis is a very good player. It’ll be the first of many. He did well, it was no reflection on him coming off at half-time.”

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