Jurgen Klopp was delighted with the impact his substitutes made in Liverpool’s 1-0 victory over Ajax and branded Takumi Minamino a ‘machine’ and a ‘devil’ after his impressive cameo performance in Amsterdam.
Nicolas Tagliafico’s directed Sadio Mane’s wayward effort into his own net in the 35th minute and Liverpool kept hold of their narrow advantage to get their Champions League campaign off to the perfect start.
The Reds – hamstrung by injuries to a host of key players including Alisson and Virgil van Dijk – rung the changes in the second half as Curtis Jones, Xherdan Shaqiri, Diogo Jota, Rhys Williams and Minamino were all introduced at the Johan Cruijff ArenA.
‘I really liked the fresh legs that we brought on with the three changes up front, that helped,’ Liverpool head coach Klopp told BT Sport shortly after the final whistle.
‘The medical team told me, “No, no 90 minutes” [for Jordan Henderson], okay, no problem, then he plays 45. He did really well.
‘Curtis with his first appearances, Rhys Williams had his first Champions League appearance – he played last season in non-league football and now he has a few minutes in the Champions League.
‘The boy will not forget that forever and it’s nicer to win the game, your first one. So a lot of nice stories and three points.’
Shaqiri, Jota and Minamino came on at the hour-mark and Klopp felt all three players grabbed their opportunity with both hands.
Asked whether game-management was the reason for his early substitutions, the German replied: ‘Yeah, that’s one thing, game management is one thing, the other thing is use the power of the others.
‘You saw they were fresher, they were the hardest working. It’s a bit of a shame that Diogo didn’t score, Shaq was lively and Taki is a machine.
‘He’s everywhere, he defends like a devil and then offensively he’s really involved. Nice one-twos together with Diogo on the side where they came into the box.
‘So that helps, obviously, when you can make five changes in midweek games and probably most of the time we will have to do that.’
The champions were thumped 7-2 by Aston Villa before drawing 2-2 with Everton in their last two top-flight games and will be desperate to get back to winning ways at Anfield.