Liverpool started their Champions League campaign on Wednesday evening with a 1-0 win over Ajax in the Johan Cruyff ArenA. An own goal from Nicolás Tagliafico gave the Red’s the perfect start with a comical own goal, but it was the defence who consolidated and secured the three points for Jürgen Klopp’s side.
With Virgil van Dijk and Joël Matip unavailable, Fabinho was shifted into the centre back role alongside Joe Gomez and the pair were excellent throughout the night. The duo were undoubtedly Liverpool’s standout players and the man-of-match could have gone to either player.
While Fabinho will get a large share of the plaudits, and rightfully so, the performance of Gomez felt like a much bigger statement. The 23-year-old’s form has recently taken a dip but after his 90 minutes on Wednesday night, it seems that he has taken a step in the right direction towards putting that bad form to bed, producing an outstanding defensive display against one of Europe’s top sides.
The former Charlton man read the game brilliantly, completing four interceptions, one tackle, 11 ball recoveries whilst not committing a single foul during the match. He was in cruise control for the vast majority doing all the basics perfectly.
The main take-away from his game was how dominant the Englishman was in the air, with that aspect of his game often pointed out as an area of weakness. He finished the game attempting the most aerial duels (5), winning four. He also made more clearances (10) than anyone else with four of those being headed away.Embed from Getty Images
In the absence of Liverpool’s star central defender, Gomez took control of the back-line and stepped into the boots of his usual defensive partner. He looked assured and confident going into every single challenge and was a major reason for his side’s clean sheet.
The potential return to form for the England international couldn’t have come at a better time. His side now need him to continue to step up and become that vocal leader in the heart of defence. The clean sheet can become the perfect catalyst in the evolution of the centre half, providing him with the increased responsibility and leadership he needs to develop to reach that next level.
Next up for Gomez is a return to Anfield where he will come up against Sheffield United and former teammate Rhian Brewster. Liverpool host the Blades at 8pm on Saturday evening.
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