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The standout, those 3 minutes & rotation – Last word on Liverpool 3-2 AC Milan

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What would a European night be without a flair for the dramatics? Liverpool didn’t make it easy on themselves but they got the job done in the end against AC Milan.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the scoreline could read in excess of 4-0 if the first 40 minutes were anything to go by, but Liverpool’s inability to finish off chances left the door ajar.

The Italian’s capitalised as sloppiness reigned supreme, only for the Reds to find their feet with goals from Mohamed Salah and Jordan Henderson ensuring three points were safely secured.

It means Liverpool remain unbeaten at the start of the season, with their Champions League campaign having gotten off to a dramatic, but ideal start.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_), who was at Anfield, and David Comerford (@Dave_Comerford) discuss the Reds’ standout, those sloppy few minutes and Klopp’s rotation.

 

The standout…

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 12, 2021: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Leeds United FC and Liverpool FC at Elland Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAVID: It’s got to be Fabinho. He was the man of the match against Leeds too, but he went up another level here. I genuinely think it ranks as one of his finest performances in a Liverpool shirt. It left me in awe.

It was everything you could ask from a No. 6 – sustaining our attacks, breaking up play, progressing the ball. I don’t think any player harnessed the atmosphere quite as well as he did.

This is what we were missing in midfield for much of last season.

JOANNA: It’s hard to argue against Fab, he’s just always in the right place at the right time and I always loved him matching the overly aggressive nature of the ref.

But in saying that, I did really enjoy Salah’s performance. He may have proven he is in fact human with that penalty miss, but he was brilliant and coupled his forward adventures with defensive cover as Trent made runs forward.

He looks hungrier than ever but what sealed it for me was his reaction on the halfway line when his goal was given the green light, turning to the Sir Kenny Dalglish stand with unadulterated emotion – no one can say he does not love this club.

 

Those 3 minutes…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 15, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks dejected during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 1 game between Liverpool FC and AC Milan at Anfield. (Pic by Paul Currie/Propaganda)

DAVID: I can’t really point to specific errors that Joe Gomez or Joel Matip made, to be honest. I think the bigger problem was the lack of organisation in the absence of Virgil van Dijk, who should, realistically, be starting every game in the Premier League and Champions League. It was all a bit frantic.

JOANNA: Frantic is definitely the word, David. They seemed to have taken their dominance too far and just mentally switched off.

Milan had had zero space and then all of a sudden had acres of it but while it certainly made Anfield quiet, there was no doomsday feeling that you get when you scroll through social media.

DAVID: For the first goal, I look at Naby Keita and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Keita should have cut off the pass into Saelemaekers – if you watch it back you can see him spotting the danger all too late – and Trent could have done more to get back and challenge Rebic.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 15, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 1 game between Liverpool FC and AC Milan at Anfield. (Pic by Paul Currie/Propaganda)

Then for the second, it was clear that they had their tails up and we were rattled. They simply cut through us.

JOANNA: Adding to that, the first also saw Joe Gomez track the run of Rebic to leave the hole in the middle but the error then was the defensive line not stepping up to play him offside.

They were little moments that all added up to losing our heads momentarily. Up to that point and thereafter Liverpool were swatting them away with ease and it really did feel like a blip.

A healthy early lesson that can be taken alongside a victory, Klopp will take that.

 

And Klopp’s rotation…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 15, 2021: AC Milan's Alexis Saelemaekers and Liverpool's Divock Origi during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 1 game between Liverpool FC and AC Milan at Anfield. (Pic by Paul Currie/Propaganda)

DAVID: As I say, I think Klopp will look at that spell at the end of the first half and decide it was probably too risky to rest Van Dijk.

For the most part, Matip and Gomez actually played well, but Virg’s presence is just so valuable.

JOANNA: You can definitely see the reason behind Van Dijk’s absence, there’s just, unfortunately, no way he should be playing non-stop for both club and country.

And I totally see your point David, but I don’t feel as though it was necessarily Van Dijk’s presence that was lacking as opposed to the entire team just sleepwalking at the backend of the first.

DAVID: The other big surprise, of course, was Divock Origi starting. Had Roberto Firmino been fit, that would have been the change, but it’s fair to say Origi took his opportunity by putting in a much-improved performance.

The assist was sublime but I think above all else, it was his application that the fans appreciated. There were times last season when he seemed to let games pass him by, but there was much more vigour about him here.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 15, 2021: Liverpool's James Milner fouls AC Milan's Brahim Diaz during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 1 game between Liverpool FC and AC Milan at Anfield. (Pic by Paul Currie/Propaganda)

JOANNA: I think we also saw what could be a January solution up top when Mane and Salah are to be absent, with Ox and Jones both getting minutes up top.

The latter had more of an impact and showed promise on his first appearance of the season, obviously doesn’t have the pace but has the eye for a pass and game intelligence.

It’s not the ideal solution by any means, but Minamino and Origi, if he stays at Anfield, will be in and amongst it alongside Firmino and Jota.

As much as you need consistency in the side, we always need players who are ready to slot into the team and hit the ground running and the only way to do that is to give them minutes.

Rhythm is a keyword for Klopp and rotation is the only way he can ensure his fringe players can make an impact.

DAVID: On that point, I hope now that we go full-strength against Crystal Palace in the knowledge that we can make wholesale changes for the cup tie against Norwich and give many of the starters a break.

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