Liverpool and AC Milan enjoy another classic encounter
Despite the two clubs’ history in the competition, these two heavyweights met at Anfield for the first time in the Champions League. As proved the case in both of the encounters previous, the game proved to be a classic, as Liverpool dominated but found themselves down 2-1 at half-time after a rapid-fire brace from the visitors.
Liverpool rallied, though, with Mo Salah netting an equaliser just minutes into the second-half. It got better still for the Reds, as Jordan Henderson conjured images of Steven Gerrard with a strike from the edge of the box into the bottom corner:
WHAT. A. HIT! 🚀
Jordan Henderson launches a half volley into the corner of the net! No one is stopping a strike like that! 💥
Liverpool have their lead back 💪 pic.twitter.com/YsxcxHe72o
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 15, 2021
This victory means that Liverpool take an early advantage in a group that includes Milan, Porto and Atletico Madrid, with the latter two having played out a 0-0 stalemate.
1. Liverpool’s striking issues are still a problem
One of the biggest surprises upon the release of Liverpool’s team news this evening was the inclusion of Divock Origi, yet to play a minute this season, in the starting line up ahead of Sadio Mane. As Origi did little of note, there was a clear drop-off in quality between Mo Salah, Diogo Jota and the Belgian.
63′ – Our first change as Mane is on for Origi.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 15, 2021
Worse still, Origi limped off the pitch midway through the second-half with what appeared to be a muscular injury, adding to Jurgen Klopp’s woes and joining Roberto Firmino and Harvey Elliott on the treatment table.
With Sadio Mane and Mo Salah both set to be absent for part of the season due to African Cup of Nations commitments, Liverpool’s frontline will be weaker still, making the need for reinforcements in January even greater.
2. Anfield remains a fortress on European nights
The first 15 minutes reminded those in any doubt of just how difficult Anfield is to come to on Champions League nights. After the usual spine-tingling rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, it is not uncommon for the Liverpool ground to fall silent in the Premier League.
In the Champions League, however, the stadium is a different animal. The crowd roared on their side as they made a blistering start, registering 13 attempts in the first 15 minutes of the encounter.
I know rival fans absolutely hate the cliché but there just is something overwhelmingly intimidating about the way Liverpool start these big European matches at Anfield.
— Adam Crafton (@AdamCrafton_) September 15, 2021
Liverpool could easily have found themselves more than 1-0 up midway through the first-half, with Mo Salah seeing his penalty saved and two Joel Matip headers were straight at the goalkeeper.
It was then the Anfield crowd, again, that roared their side on early in the second-half at 2-1 down, helping the hosts edge home and get a much needed three points.
Given the perceived difficulty of the tie heading into the evening, it was a necessity that Liverpool came out of the blocks quickly. And they did just that.
3. Liverpool still rely on van Dijk
As already mentioned, Liverpool were by far the better side in the first-half, and could have been several goals up by half-time. However, they found themselves 2-1 down thanks to a 2-minute brace from the visitors just before the interval.
Star man Virgil van Dijk was somewhat bizarrely rested for the encounter, leaving Joe Gomez to partner Joel Matip at the heart of the Reds’ defence. In the former’s first game back in over a year, the lack of presence in the form of van Dijk was evident as Milan scythed through Klopp’s defence in a frenzied period before the break.
The gamble, ultimately, paid off for the German tactician, but only just.
4. Chelsea may regret selling Fikayo Tomori
For all of their defensive talent at present, Chelsea’s defence sits on a knife edge, All of Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta are out of contract in less than 12 months’ time, and as of yet none have agreed to terms to remain.
There is currently little sign of Chelsea reaching a breakthrough with Rudiger before January (when other clubs can talk), as their offer, worth around £140,000 a week, falls short of his expectations. [Matt Law- Telegraph] #CFC
— CFCDaily (@CFCDaily) September 15, 2021
Perhaps most worryingly, rumours have emerged that Rudiger has no intention of signing a new deal and that, as per Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph, talks have stalled as a result.
Former Blue Fikayo Tomori, meanwhile, put in another fantastic defensive performance for AC Milan against Jurgen Klopp’s side, making a pair of vital blocks and beginning several good moves for his side.
Tomori for under €30 million at 23 years old is just incredible business, securing that option to buy in January, was one of Maldini’s best moves at Milan
— David Amoyal (@DavidAmoyal) September 15, 2021
Still just 23 years old, his sale could prove to be a mistake that Chelsea live to rue.
5. It is a huge season for Liverpool’s outcasts
Liverpool, for all of their quality in the first XI, lack squad depth. An ageing James Milner, young Curtis Jones and out of favour Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were the substitutions made by Jurgen Klopp against the Italian outfit.
84′ – Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain replace Salah and Henderson.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 15, 2021
Milner, while a brilliant servant, is not getting any younger and will likely find himself being used increasingly sparingly. Curtis Jones, on the other hand, will have to redefine his position due to the strength in central midfield following the returns of Henderson and Fabinho to their natural position after last season’s crisis.
Both he and Oxlade-Chamberlain could find themselves being utilised as auxiliary forwards amid the AFCON-shaped headache Klopp seems likely to face in January, but it nevertheless feels like a make or break season for the pair.
This article was edited by Conor Laird.
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