Fabinho hailed after filling Van Dijk void in Ajax win

James Milner hailed stand-in centre-back Fabinho after the Brazilian’s display helped Liverpool get their Champions League campaign off to a winning start.

The Reds secured a 1-0 win away at Dutch giants Ajax in their first game since talismanic defender Virgil van Dijk suffered a serious knee injury in last weekend’s Merseyside derby.

With Van Dijk likely to be out for the rest of the season, Liverpool have Joe Gomez and Joel Matip as their only recognised senior centre-halves. However, Fabinho has filled in to good effect in the past and, with Matip out injured, did so again in Amsterdam.

The 26-year-old played a key role in keeping Klopp’s side’s clean sheet intact, most notably when making a brilliant bicycle kick clearance off his own goalline after Dusan Tadic had lobbed Adrian.

(Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

“Fabinho is a top player,” Milner told BT Sport. “Top players can adapt and he did that. He’s played there before and played very well.

“I thought it was a good team performance because it was tough out there, it was a physical battle under tricky conditions.”

The Reds were far from their fluent best, with Klopp even sacrificing all three of his famed forward line in a triple substitution on the hour mark in a bid to spark some energy into their display.

Speaking after the match, he picked out Fabinho’s clearance as summing up the graft that was needed to secure three points.

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“I don’t know how it happened in the beginning,” he added. “That’s a good example of how the boys did today. It was not perfect but they fought brilliantly.

“It was good enough to win the game. That’s what you need. I think both teams could play better football. At moments it was wild. The pitch was deep and muddy. Three days ago it looked completely different and in training yesterday it looked different.

“But we did not take our chances which was a shame. Ajax had a big one which hit the post. When you’re 1-0 up, these things can happen. But overall I’m happy with the game. It was not sunshine football but we wanted three points and we got it.”

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