Liverpool 3, Milan 2: Nervy

Like a child taking its first steps, Milan stepped onto their first Champions League pitch in seven years. For the first 40 minutes or so, they played like a deer in the headlights, having gifted an own goal and being pinned back in their own half for much of that time. But a double save from Maignan on a penalty and two goals in two minutes had Milan shake off their nerves at the half, and for much of the second half, they held their own. It was all Liverpool could do to equalize and then take all three points. What started out as a very nervous team turned into a very nervy performance from Milan.


If you look at Champions League experience, in Milan's starting lineup, there were only four players who have ever played in the Champions League before: Kjaer had 6 appearances for Sevilla and one for Atalanta, Brahim Díaz had 4 late substitutions between both Manchester City and Real Madrid, Tomori had 4 appearances at Chelsea, and Theo Hernández had one start and two substitutions at Real Madrid. That is a combined total of 12 starts and 6 substitutions  between the entire squad. To put that into perspective, Jordan Henderson alone has 33 Champions League starts and six substitutions himself for Liverpool.

One of these coaches is not like the other

Looking at quality, as was mentioned in the preview, Liverpool's annual salaries last year were €162 million/year, compared to Milan's €90 million/year squad. The average age of Liverpool's starting 11 is 26.9 years, whereas Milan's is 24.4 years old. Klopp has won the Champions League, Pioli has never managed a single Champions League match. Plus Liverpool were playing at home to a stadium of fans that was allowed to have 100% capacity. (When they come to San Siro, it will only be 50% capacity.)

Bennacer handball? No worries. Mike's got your back. Twice.

First of all, let's just point out that Maignan is a world class keeper. You might look at the score and think that conceding three goals was not so hot, but he faced 23 shots in all, and saved a penalty. A double save, actually, on a Salah penalty and the followup in the 15th minute, awarded for a Bennacer handball. The first goal was in the ninth minute, given as a Tomori own goal from an Alexander-Arnold shot. 1-0 Liverpool. We knew it would be hard, but it looked like Milan were just not up for the task.

Hell yeah.

Then, boom. Around 40 minutes in, Milan took control, made some nice plays, and Leão laid it off to Rebić, who sent it past Alisson to equalize, 1-1. Less than two minutes later, having remembered that they knew how to play, Brahim Díaz tapped in Rebić's deflected shot, 2-1 Milan. Without even having a proper striker on the pitch.

It's always the quiet ones.

Liverpool fans would have you believe that they dominated the entire match, but that assertion is still rather nervy. After dominating the first 40 minutes, they would end up with only 61% possession, actually, and only eight of their shots were on target. Milan may have only managed seven chances, but four of those were on target. Kjaer actually scored a goal in the 46th, but it was called back for offside. Salah would get his goal in the 48th, 2-2 all. Henderson scored the winner in the 69th, 3-2 Liverpool. 

The Viking is indestructable.

Pioli brought on our most experienced Champions League players in Giroud and Florenzi in the 62nd, then subbed Tonali on later as well. Finally, in the 83rd, he brought on Daniel Maldini. The cameras panned to Paolo Maldini in the stand, and you could see it was an emotional moment for him. He lifted our last Champions League trophy against Liverpool, and now his son was playing his first game against the same club. 

The Maldini Dynasty continues

There was another great moment when both teams took a knee, it is great that Milan are united on this, unlike the Italy national team this summer. Despite the goals conceded, Kjaer and Tomori were phenomenal. Even in between looking like they were in over their heads, the rest of the players had some good moments, too. Certainly, Milan have plenty to work on, but Klopp should be more worried about his side. Our players will likely be more confident in the next match now that they have a match under their belts, but Liverpool don't have any excuses.

Demonstrating against racial inequality together

Liverpool took all three points, but Milan showed that when they settle in, they can play with the best. And even score against them. Atlético Madrid and Porto drew, so perhaps Milan will have a chance, if they can get their legs beneath them sooner in their next Champions League match. I wasn't expecting much, knowing how many of the odds were stacked against us, but I was proud of our guys for keeping Liverpool honest, and even having some moments of brilliance to create some shock and awe. For all of the jitters in the first half, this young team turned out to be pretty nervy.

This post inspired by the music of Echo & the Bunnymen's "Bring on the Dancing Horses"

Our next match is
Serie A Week 4
Juventus vs. Milan
Sunday, September 19 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)

Liverpool 3, Milan 2: Nervy Liverpool 3, Milan 2: Nervy Reviewed by Elaine on 8:38 PM Rating: 5
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