Ibrahima Konate and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain impressed, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic was poor as Liverpool beat AC Milan 2-1 on Tuesday.
The first half was an evenly contested affair, with both teams trading blows without putting either goalkeeper under too much pressure. When the requisite nervy moment was produced, both teams found the back of the net. AC Milan broke the deadlock through Fikayo Tomori midway through the first half after Alisson Becker failed to deal with a corner, parrying the ball straight to the English defender.
Shortly after, Liverpool brought the game back on level terms through Mohamed Salah, who was in the right place at the right time to score from a rebound after Mike Maignan directed a save from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s strike towards the Egyptian. The Reds started the second half strongly and were ahead just ten minutes in, courtesy of an error by Tomori.
Sadio Mane pounced on the mistake by the AC Milan defender but had his effort saved by Maignan. Once again, though, the Frenchman could only parry the initial shot, which went straight to Divock Origi, who headed in the rebound to make it 2-1. Milan looked to draw level after that but could not force a meaningful save out of Alisson, let alone trouble the Liverpool No. 1.
So, Liverpool held on to clinch a 2-1 win, which means they have ended the group stage campaign with a perfect record after the six rounds of fixtures. On the other hand, Milan’s European journey this season has ended. Atletico Madrid’s win over FC Porto means the Colchoneros are runners-up in Group B, while Porto finish third to go down to the Europa League. The Hard Tackle runs the rule over both sets of players.
Mike Maignan: 5/10
Maignan made multiple saves to keep his team in the game, but the Frenchman should have done better to deal with Sadio Mane, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shots before Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi slotted home the rebounds.
Pierre Kalulu: 5/10
With Davide Calabria unavailable, Kalulu was preferred over Alessandro Florenzi at right-back. However, Sadio Mane gave him a lot to worry about, which meant he could not move high up the pitch at will. The pressure from the Liverpool attacker also forced him to be wasteful on the ball, carelessly losing possession a few too many times.
Fikayo Tomori: 5/10
3 – Fikayo Tomori is only the third English player to score a Champions League goal against an English opponent while playing for a non-English side, after Patrick Roberts for Celtic v Man City in 2016 and Jude Bellingham for Borussia Dortmund v Man City in 2021. Trio. pic.twitter.com/rqgIVYZtWM
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 7, 2021
Tomori went from hero to zero in the span of half an hour. The Englishman put Milan in front with a poacher’s goal in the first half. However, his error helped Liverpool claw their way back and complete their comeback win before Origi scored. Otherwise, he was largely solid, only to be undone by one poor moment.
Alessio Romagnoli: 6/10
The best of the AC Milan defenders, although that does not say much, considering how far the levels dropped on the night. While Romagnoli was solid on an individual level, he failed to keep the Milan defence organised in the most crucial phases of the game and should have done better to keep the Liverpool attackers at bay.
Theo Hernandez: 5/10
Quite often, the most potent threat for AC Milan, Hernandez, was off colour against Liverpool, with the challenge of defending against Salah and Neco Williams leaving him pinned back in his own half. The Frenchman could not clinically find Zlatan Ibrahimovic when he did foray forward.
Sandro Tonali: 7/10
The clear standout performer for Milan, Tonali, popped up where required and restricted Liverpool enormously in the first half to the best of his abilities. He made a few key clearances and tackles, but it was not enough to help his side to even a single point, let alone all three points.
Franck Kessie: 4/10
Kessie is a player who has a lot riding on him when he takes the field for AC Milan. However, against Liverpool, the Ivorian was tame and meek in his showing and lost the ball cheaply in dangerous areas of the pitch. He also missed one good chance to score, and it was an all-round disaster for him.
Junior Messias: 5/10
A surprise starter ahead of Alexis Saelemaekers, Messias was typically boisterous in his display and played a team-high two key passes. However, the Brazilian struggled to pose a constant threat and was also pinned back by the dual challenge of marking Sadio Mane and Kostas Tsimikas.
Brahim Diaz: 5/10
Diaz has proven to be the difference-maker for AC Milan on several occasions this season. However, against Liverpool, the Spaniard seemed to be out of his depths somewhat, struggling to stitch play together, let alone make things happen.
Rade Krunic: 6/10
Krunic might have been somewhat sloppy on the ball, but he seemed to be the only attacking player who looked to make things happen. Ultimately, it all came to nought, though.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 4/10
Jurgen Klopp on Zlatan Ibrahimovic:
"First and foremost, I spoke to Zlatan in the tunnel; not spoke, we shook hands before the game in the tunnel. That’s it and I don’t think that’s an important story on a night like this." #awlive [lfc] pic.twitter.com/xja5yeeGKh
— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) December 7, 2021
It was a game to forget for Ibrahimovic, who never got into the game and failed to test Alisson Becker. At times, the veteran striker was also sloppy on the ball, losing possession cheaply on a few occasions.
Ismael Bennacer: 6/10
On for Diaz, Bennacer kept play ticking and tried to wrest control of the game and completed all but one pass. However, he could not make a meaningful impact.
Alexis Saelemaekers: 5/10
Following his performance on the weekend, Saelemaekers should have been handed a start against Liverpool. However, after replacing Tonali, the Belgian forward did not do much of note, thereby vindicating Stefano Pioli’s decision in a way.
Alessandro Florenzi: 5/10
On for Kalulu, Florenzi seemed to be better than the incumbent right-back early on but failed to influence the proceedings.
Tiemoue Bakayoko: N/A
A late introduction, Bakayoko did not have much time to sway the game in Milan’s favour.
Alisson Becker: 6/10
Alisson made a fine stop in the second half to deny Franck Kessie. However, he should have done better in dealing with the corner coming his way instead of parrying the ball straight to Fikayo Tomori. Otherwise, there was not a lot to pick out from his performance.
Neco Williams: 8/10
With Trent Alexander-Arnold rested, Williams was a constant outlet down the right flank but also defended diligently for the most part. His link-up with Mohamed Salah was delightful, and on another day, the Welshman could have had an assist to show for his efforts.
Nathaniel Phillips: 8/10
Nat Phillips owns the San Siropic.twitter.com/7qE7XRXRAd
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) December 7, 2021
A couple of days after Jurgen Klopp suggested that he could be sold, Phillips made a rare starting appearance for Liverpool. And the Englishman produced a professional display, winning six duels while completing four clearances and making a big block. He has to be sold, but he is making a good case for himself for prospective suitors.
Ibrahima Konate: 9/10
The leader of the Liverpool defence in the absence of Virgil van Dijk, Konate, was an immovable object at the back. The Frenchman barely put a foot wrong and marshalled Zlatan Ibrahimovic smartly while completing seven clearances, three interceptions and two tackles.
Kostas Tsimikas: 7/10
Tsimikas endured a slow start to the game and had to do a fair bit of defending. However, the Greek defender was relentless once he found his feet, especially on his forward forays. He played one key pass while completing three tackles and two interceptions.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 9/10
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain vs. AC Milan
88% Pass accuracy
7/8 Accurate long passes
2/6 Crosses completed
1 Chance created
3/5 Dribbles completed
1/5 Shots on target
2/3 Tackles won
6/11 Ground duels won
The latest in a string of top-class performances. The Ox is in a good place. pic.twitter.com/uBo0ZKes7v
— The Tactical Times (@Tactical_Times) December 7, 2021
Oxlade-Chamberlain would have been yearning to produce such a performance for a long time to prove he can still make a difference for Liverpool. The Englishman was purposeful in his display and linked up play nicely with Salah. He even played his part in one of the goals, as one of his efforts was parried straight to Salah by Mike Maignan for Liverpool’s opener.
Tyler Morton: 7/10
The Player to Watch in our preview, Morton had a difficult first half as Milan played around him. However, the teenage prodigy did exceedingly well after the break, wresting control from the hosts while making some key defensive contributions.
Takumi Minamino: 7/10
Back in the starting lineup, Minamino was deployed in the midfield trio, and he did not instantly take to the new role. However, the Japanese international gradually got used to the demands of the position, pulling the strings nicely along with Oxlade-Chamberlain while also playing three key passes.
Mohamed Salah: 8/10
Theo Hernandez’s adventurous outlook enabled Salah to carry a definitive threat in the final third. The Egyptian wizard also showed the creative side of his game, playing a joint-game-high three key passes. Salah also found the back of the net, scoring his seventh group stage goal this term by being in the right place at the right time.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 7, 2021
Divock Origi: 8/10
Handed a start after his exploits against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Origi was a bundle of energy high up the pitch and put in the hard yards to help his team out. And when Liverpool needed him to score, the Belgian striker was positioned perfectly to slot home the rebound, which turned out to be the match-winner. What an asset for Klopp.
Sadio Mane: 7/10
After a difficult outing against Wolves on the weekend, Mane was close to his best against AC Milan. The Senegalese forward showed tremendous energy and kept Pierre Kalulu under the cosh. Mane also made his mark on the game, pouncing on an error by Fikayo Tomori before drawing a save from Maignan, whose parry ended up straight towards Origi for the winner.
Naby Keita: 7/10
Making his return from an injury, Keita kept play ticking and even engineered a couple of key passes. It was a nice cameo to signal his comeback.
Joe Gomez: 7/10
On for Mane, Gomez was a solid customer at the heart of the Liverpool defence and was not put under any pressure by the AC Milan attack.
A late introduction, Fabinho helped see the game out.
Max Woltman: N/A
Introduced in injury time, Woltman did not have much to do but will remember the day for the rest of his life after being handed his Liverpool debut.
Conor Bradley: N/A
A late introduction, Bradley helped see the game out.