Jordan Henderson and Franck Kessie were among those who impressed as Liverpool eked out a 3-2 win over AC Milan at Anfield on Wednesday.
Liverpool were hot off the gates, getting a stranglehold of the game early on before grabbing the lead in the 9th minute through a clever piece of teamwork between Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who finished off the move with a deflected effort.
Shortly after, Salah had the chance to make it 2-0 from the spot after Ismael Bennacer had handled the ball inside the AC Milan box. However, the spot-kick was well saved by Mike Maignan, who also blocked the rebound to keep the visitors in the game. Liverpool continued to push forward for their next goal, but were denied well by the visitors’ defensive unit.
The resistance by Milan would prove to be hugely important as against the run of play, Stefano Pioli & co. would go on to grab the lead with two goals in as many minutes. Ante Rebic first equalised in the 42nd minute by finishing off a well-worked move before Brahim Diaz put the Rossoneri ahead at the end of an electric counter-attacking goal, with Liverpool falling behind at half-time.
Post the interval, Liverpool appeared determined to make up for a poor end to the first half, with Mohamed Salah producing a composed finish from close range to make it 2-2. Milan continued to take the game to their hosts but fell behind midway through the second half thanks to a fine driven effort by Jordan Henderson. That goal was enough to get Liverpool all three points and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over both the sets of players.
Alisson Becker: 6/10
A game in which Alisson barely had anything to do, seeing as Liverpool dominated the proceedings for the most part. The Brazilian goalkeeper did concede a couple of goals but he was powerless against the late Milan onslaught in the first half.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7/10
Alexander-Arnold has been one of Liverpool’s best players early in the season, and he continued his run of form with a well-taken goal, which came at the end of a fine ghosting run before he was set up by Mohamed Salah. Remained a constant outlet down the right flank, but his forward forays also meant that he was caught out of position a few too many times. Has to track back better.
Joel Matip: 6/10
Matip has been in fine touch in the early stages of the season. The performance versus AC Milan, though, was one to forget for the most part, as he failed to keep a track of Ante Rebic twice, which eventually paved the way for the two goals that the visitors scored. Has to pull up his socks and take on more responsibility in the absence of Virgil van Dijk.
Joe Gomez: 6/10
In a surprise decision, Gomez was drafted into the starting lineup in place of Virgil van Dijk. And as is the case more often than a note in the absence of the Dutch defender, the youngster was found out on more than one occasion. In all fairness, though, this was his first start since recovering from a long-term injury, so he was understandably rusty.
Andrew Robertson: 8/10
This was a performance that showed that Robertson was well and truly back to his best. Earned a penalty for his side with his cross being handled by Ismael Bennacer. Made quite an impact as a constant outlet down the left flank, playing a game-high three key passes. Typically solid at the back as well in what was a complete performance from the Scot.
Jordan Henderson: 8/10
Jordan Henderson has scored his first Champions League goal for seven years.
And what a strike to break the duck. 😉 pic.twitter.com/1kkl8bWOS5
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 15, 2021
Back in the starting lineup in place of the injured Harvey Elliott, Henderson produced a tireless performance in the middle of the park. The Liverpool captain not only retained possession smartly but also played the joint-most key passes (three) in the game. The cherry on top, though, was the peach of a driven effort that sealed all three points for his team.
Once again, Fabinho was instrumental in ensuring Liverpool stayed on top of their opponents in general gameplay for much of the proceedings. The Brazilian international was not only a solid customer in the defensive phases – eight duels won, six tackles and four interceptions completed – but also going forward, as he played a couple of key passes. Solid work.
Naby Keita: 7/10
Back in the starting lineup in place of Thiago Alcantara, Keita did well to assert Liverpool’s control on the game, completing 42 of the 44 passes he attempted. Put in the hard yards defensively as well, winning six duels while also completing a couple of tackles. A step in the right direction.
Mohamed Salah: 7/10
Clever ball to send Alexander-Arnold through into the AC Milan box. Unlucky to have had his spot-kick saved by Mike Maignan, with the effort having a lot of power in it. Salah, though, made amends for the earlier miss with a fine run and finish to score Liverpool’s second. Decent enough performance.
14 – Mohamed Salah is now Liverpool's joint-highest scorer in European Cup/UEFA Champions League games at Anfield, with his 14th taking him level with Steven Gerrard. King. pic.twitter.com/XEPkOSGwfe
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 15, 2021
Divock Origi: 6/10
A surprise starter, Origi was picked ahead of Sadio Mane in the side and the Belgian took his own sweet time to get into the groove. The striker, though, produced a top-class dinked pass that found its way to Salah leading up to the equaliser for Liverpool before going off injured in the 63rd minute.
Diogo Jota: 6/10
After being relentless against Leeds United, this was a game in which Jota could not really manage to express himself as well. While the Portuguese international completed all but five of his attempted passes and even played a couple of key passes, he was left frustrated with his efforts on goal, having had a couple of shots blocked as well. Will hope to do better on the weekend.
Sadio Mane: 6/10
On for the injured Origi, Mane seemed to be eager to prove a point, although he did place a shot off target wildly. Nearly set up a goal in the 72nd minute, but that was as good as it got for him.
Curtis Jones: 6/10
On for Jota, Jones made his first appearance of the season but struggled to make an impression. Having said that, he was deployed in a largely unfamiliar left-wing berth, which robbed him of expressing himself better.
Thiago Alcantara: 7/10
Introduced in place of Keita, Thiago helped assert Liverpool’s control over the proceedings in the final quarter of the game, completing each of his 11 attempted passes.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: N/A
A late introduction, Oxlade-Chamberlain did not really have any time to get in on the action in the dying embers of the game.
James Milner: N/A
Called on late in place of Henderson, Milner helped see the game out without much of a fuss.
Mike Maignan: 7/10
A big reason why AC Milan were in the game for so long despite being dominated by Liverpool. The French goalkeeper made some big saves to keep the Reds’ attackers at bay, with the most clutch of these being the one to deny Mohamed Salah from the spot. Could not have done anything about the three goals that Liverpool scored.
Davide Calabria: 6.5/10
A tricky game for Calabria, but one in which he made a better impression at the back as compared to Theo Hernandez. Diogo Jota did give him a run for his money, but the Italian international more than held his own, making a whopping seven tackles as well as three clearances. Could not make an impact higher up the pitch, though.
Simon Kjaer: 7/10
Starting alongside Tomori at the heart of the AC Milan defence, Kjaer had a tough start to the game, when Liverpool were in total control. Found stable footing as the game progressed and made as many as six clearances apart from two blocks, two interceptions and four tackles. Ought to have done better to keep the backline organised, though.
Fikayo Tomori: 8/10
A busy outing for Tomori, who put his body on the line quite a few times on the night. The former Chelsea defender produced a big block on Salah with the goal at his mercy. However, he was unable to deny Trent Alexander-Arnold from close range, with the shot deflecting off him for the opener. Made three big blocks, in addition to two interceptions and as many tackles. Not enough in the end.
Theo Hernandez: 6/10
A game of hits and misses for Theo Hernandez. While the Frenchman had his fair share of troubles against Salah, he also posed a fair bit of threat with his deliveries from the left flank. Grew in confidence defensively as the minutes wore on, although he did fail to track Salah for the goal early in the second half.
Ismael Bennacer: 6/10
Handled the ball to hand Liverpool a penalty, although no harm was done in the end. Other than that one moment, Bennacer was largely solid in the middle of the park, winning seven duels while also being typically reliable with the ball at his feet.
Franck Kessie: 8/10
As ever, Kessie produced a rock solid performance that forced Liverpool to take desperate measures at times. While the Ivorian was typically solid at the back, he also moved the ball forward efficiently, misplacing just five passes all game. Milan have do everything they can to tie him down to a new deal.
Alexis Saelemaekers: 7/10
The statistics may say the Saelemaekers produced a rather poor display. Indeed, losing possession 11 times when you have touched the ball just 31 times is not ideal. However, the Belgian winger did get involved heavily in both the goals that AC Milan scored, which takes his rating up ever so slightly.
Brahim Diaz: 7/10
110 – Just 110 seconds separated AC Milan's equaliser and Brahim Diáz's goal to take them into a 2-1 half time lead at Anfield. Frenzy. pic.twitter.com/Ql11OQXQDQ
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 15, 2021
AC Milan fought hard to sign Diaz again this past summer and the performance against Liverpool showed why. At the heart of every good move that AC Milan looked to create, the Spaniard helped set up the equaliser, scored by Rebic, before getting on the scoresheet himself late in the first half. Influence waned on as the game progressed post the interval.
Rafael Leao: 6/10
A difficult evening for Leao, who did not get involved too much in the action while also misplacing 56 percent of his attempted passes. However, of the four passes he did complete, one was perfectly weighted for Rebic to score from to make it 1-1. Taken off for Olivier Giroud after failing to get into the game in the second half.
Ante Rebic: 8/10
A solid effort by Rebic, who did not see a lot of the ball over the course of his stay on the pitch but still managed to leave his mark on the game. Scored from his only shot in the game while playing a major role in setting up the goal scored by Diaz. Taken off late on when he had started to look a little leggy.
Alessandro Florenzi: 6/10
On for Saelemaekers, Florenzi supported Calabria ably and ensured Milan were never in a position to concede another goal. However, he made no impact whatsoever going forward, with the visitors pegged back for the most part.
Olivier Giroud: 6/10
On for Leao, Giroud did not get many chances to score, with the only effort he mustered up going horribly off target. Would have liked to get more involved late on.
Sandro Tonali: 7/10
Sent on in place of Ismael Bennacer, Tonali was a solid customer in the middle of the park while also playing on a key pass late on.
Daniel Maldini: N/A
A late introduction in place of Rebic, Maldini hardly got a chance to make an impact.