AC Milan marked their return to the Champions League with a five-goal thriller against Liverpool, eventually being edged 3-2 at Anfield by Jurgen Klopp’s side.
The Reds took an early lead through a deflected Trent Alexander-Arnold strike but the Rossoneri stunned their hosts by going in 2-1 up at the break thanks to quickfire goals from Ante Rebic and Brahim Diaz.
Conceding shortly after the interval certainly didn’t help matters as Mo Salah equalised, and ultimately Jordan Henderson would score the winner that Liverpool probably deserved on the balance of play.
Empire of the Kop to get his opinion on how the game went, including his thoughts on the Rossoneri…from
How did you feel going into the game? Were you confident?
“Under Jurgen Klopp, there’s been a well-documented metamorphosis of thought and belief around Liverpool. As such, I’m generally more confident going into games than I may have been in the pre-Klopp era – the AC Milan clash included.
“That being said, given the prestige of the Serie A giants – not to mention the side’s history in the competition – there was an element of wariness about the tie. I didn’t think it would be one we’d win comfortably, even had Virgil van Dijk started, but I was certainly leaning more in Liverpool’s favour!”
What were your thoughts on the starting XI and did Klopp get it right?
“Surprise, mainly! Dropping Van Dijk was an extremely bold call from Klopp, albeit an understandable one, given the player’s recent return from a long-term injury. Though, I’d be remiss not to highlight the decision to field Divock Origi up top in his first start for us this season.
“Evidently, judging by the Belgian’s direct involvement in the Mohamed Salah’s equaliser in the second-half, it was a call the boss got spot-on. A few key players rested and a hard-fought three points in the Champions League group stage in the bag. A pretty good result, it has to be said!”
What were your thoughts on how the game unfolded and where was it won and lost?
“To be honest, I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t grab two or three goals in the first-half to kill it off early! We were utterly dominant but, as has been the case this season, we just can’t seem to convert those critical chances early on.
“Regardless, full credit has to be given to AC Milan for their ruthless, quickfire double in the latter stages of the first 45. That space in behind Trent Alexander-Arnold was key in regard to the Rossoneri’s hopes of getting a result at Anfield but I think Klopp cottoned on to that during the half-time break.
“Had you bagged the third goal that Pioli was hoping for, we could be sitting here talking about a very different outcome.”
Who were the key performers?
“The obvious pair to mention would be Trent Alexander-Arnold (despite his defensive mishaps) and Mohamed Salah – the duo were an absolute menace on the right-flank!
“I really want to point out, also, the performance of Fabinho ahead of the back four, who I felt the scoreline really didn’t do justice to in terms of the game he played. It’s certainly testament to how highly Klopp rates the Brazilian that he felt confident enough to rest Van Dijk in an important Champions League opener.
“Finally, I want to draw attention to our fringe stars; in particular, Divock Origi and James Milner. The former enjoyed a positive game (bagging a crucial assist), whilst the latter came on for a short cameo and was a disruptive influence when we needed to maintain the lead.
“It’s a long old season (which I know sounds cliché), but such contributions from our fringe players, whether they’re in the first-XI or coming off the bench, will be vital to our hopes of securing silverware this term.”
Has your opinion of AC Milan changed after the game?
“Absolutely! Not that I had a bad opinion of the Serie A outfit to begin with, though! I think Liverpool were deserving winners, but I was really impressed by AC Milan’s ruthless edge up top.
“I reckon they’ll be a force in Europe this season; sides won’t be able to afford to switch off for even a moment and I reckon Liverpool won’t be the last side to be caught off guard.”
The other result being a draw was positive. Who do you think progresses from our group?
“Great result for both parties, I think! Liverpool find themselves at the top of the group by two points, whilst AC Milan are still very much in this.
“The favourites will undoubtedly be Liverpool and Atletico Madrid, and for good reason. However, I wouldn’t be massively surprised if Pioli’s men go on and shock everyone by taking second in Group B.
“In fact, (I hope I don’t regret this), if I were a betting man, I’d put money on the Italians being in the top two in the group, with Liverpool topping it, of course!”