Football Features

“He remains the star of the show” – Player ratings as Liverpool beat Milan in a five-goal thriller on a classic Anfield night

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:23, 15 September 2021

In a breathless night of Champions League football, Liverpool overcame AC Milan in a five-goal thriller at Anfield.

The Reds scored early but Milan fought back to take the lead, but Liverpool came from behind themselves to win 3-2.

Here’s how the players rated at Anfield:


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Liverpool

Alisson – 8 – Could do little about the Milan goals but played superbly otherwise, sweeping on passes and coming to collect crosses. Took so much pressure off his defenders with his authority. In all honesty it was a masterful performance in subtle goalkeeping genius from Alisson.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8 – Showed all the greatness of in his game with ridiculous attacking intent. All the pressing and passing and crossing plus his brilliant run and shot forced the opening own goal. Of course defensively the spaces he left were ploughed into by Milan, but that is always a function of attacking wing-backs it’s on his team-mates to cover for him. He carried on driving forward.

Joel Matip – 6 – Had little to do for 40-odd minutes but whenever Milan got to attack him, they caused him problems. He was solid in the air but on the ground the quick Milan movement gave him real problems.

Joe Gomez – 6 – Didn’t look too comfortable on the left side of defence and his lack of communication with Matip led to the Milan goals. Perked up in the second-half but that first period showed he’s still working his way back to top form.

Andrew Robertson – 8 – Absolutely relentless in attack, pushing up and pressing contantly. His average position was well inside Milan’s half and he won Liverpool the penalty with his shot and almost denied the equaliser when he cleared superbly off the line. He defended magnificently as well and did just about everything.

Fabinho – 8 – A brilliant display in the heart of midfield. 6 tackles and 4 interceptions saw him act as the shield that Liverpool’s manic press was built on. Could perhaps have done a bit better on Milan’s goals when he was slow to react on the first one in particular, and that’s why he doesn’t have a 9 because beyond that he was absolutely brilliant. So good that even Jurgen Klopp shouted him out post-match.

Jordan Henderson – 7 – Was really sluggish in terms of protecting Alexander-Arnold in the first-half but got so much better second-half to put the clamps on Milan’s counters (especially once Rafael Leao went off). Scored the game-winning goal with an outrageously good volley from the edge of the box.

Naby Keita – 7 – Was nice on the ball, carrying it forward during Liverpool’s fast start.

Mohamed Salah – 8 – His pressing was relentless and intense and although he missed the penalty which could have turned the game into a rout, he made up for it with a superb run and finish to equalise. He’s now equalled Steven Gerrard with 14 European Cup goals at Anfield (all told he’s got 26 for the Reds which is more than anyone has ever got). No matter what other things change at Liverpool, Mohamed Salah remains the star of the show. He’s pure world-class.

Diogo Jota – 7 – A ferocious pressing display. He didn’t do much with the ball, but his defensive work will be appreciated.

Divock Origi – 7 – A stunning scoop pass over the Milan defence set-up an equaliser for Mohamed Salah. Beyond that he played superbly, pressing relentlessly (he had ended the game with 3 tackles) and just flicking the ball off to his team-mates. Had to leave the field due to injury and was given a standing ovation by Anfield.

Substitutes:

Sadio Mané (for Origi 63′) – 5 – Skied his first shot. Just can’t get it together.

Thiago (for Jota 71′) – 7 – Really positive in the way he took the ball and drove it forward.

Curtis Jones (for Keita 71′) – 6 – Bright. Positive.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (for Salah 84′) – n/a – Came on late.

James Milner (for Henderson 84′) – n/a – Came on late.


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AC Milan

Mike Maignan – 8 – Played really well. Brilliantly saved a penalty to prevent a massacre in the first-half and then denied Liverpool many times after that. He could possibly have been more aggressive on Liverpool’s equaliser, but he played well all told.

Davide Calabria – 7 – A really hard-working performance contending against the relentless Liverpool attack. Didn’t do enough with the ball, however.

Simon Kjaer – 8 – Absolutely massive despite the three goals conceded. Liverpool were bypassing the Milan midfield so often and sending balls into the box yet Kjaer remained strong to clear his lines over and over again. Finished the match with a game-high 6 clearances. It seems ridiculous to give him an 8 given Milan conceded three but it’s not an exaggeration to say Liverpool could have been five up by half an hour were it not for Kjaer and Tomori.

Fikayo Tomori – 8 – An absolutely colossal performance from the Englishman. Tomori absolutely did not deserve to lose. Constantly got his body in the way of Liverpool attacks, particularly in that opening 20 minutes of the first-half. Unlucky to see the ball deflect off him for an own goal, something you couldn’t blame him for as he was constantly having to throw himself around to block shots (he had 3; a game-high).

Theo Hernandez – 8 – Defended stoutly against the relentlessness of Salah and Alexander-Arnold with 3 tackles and 5 clearances, but was limited in attack as a result. He did play a big role in the lead-up to Milan’s second, with his shot being cleared off the line, but Milan needed more of that and he couldn’t provide.

Franck Kessie – 4 – A poor performance in midfield, all things considered. Kessie did nothing to screen his defence and allowed Liverpool to repeatedly run straight at his defence.

Ismael Bennacer – 5 – Bennacer got stuck in to a greater degree than Kessie but still did not do enough to prevent Liverpool from annihilating Milan with their relentless attack.

Brahim Diaz – 8 – A little pocket rocket who never let himself get intimidated by the raucous Anfield atmosphere. Demanded the ball in all occasions, invited pressure and then danced by it. Everything Milan did flowed through him.

Alexis Saelemakers – 6 – Worked hard and had a nice pass in the lead-up to the first goal but was otherwise ineffective.

Rafael Leao – 7 – Wasted a lot of good possession early in the first-half but made up for it for a superbly weighted assist for Milan’s equaliser and then a great run and pass in the build-up to their go-ahead goal. His long strides and smooth touches made him a menace.

Ante Rebic – 7 – Had nary a sniff for 40 minutes but then came to life, slotting a cool shot under Alisson to equalise and then playing a selfless pass across to Theo Hernandez just ahead of their go-ahead goal.

Substitutes:

Olivier Giroud (for Rafael Leao 62′) – 5 – His introduction sucked all the momentum out of Milan’s counter-attacks, which were rooted in the pace and movement of Rebic and Rafael Leao. Giroud’s lack of mobility essentially made it easy for the Reds to stifle Milan’s counters.

Alessandro Florenzi (for Saelemakers 62′) – 5 – Added nothing.

Sandro Tonali (for Bennacer 71′) – 5 – Didn’t add too much, really.

Daniel Maldini (for Rebic 83′) – 6 – Had a couple of nice touches.