Liverpool FC handed AC Milan their first loss in this edition of the International Champions cup by a score of 2-0.
30,000 fans entered the gates of Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California with hopes to experience an exciting match between two teams who have a reputation of always putting on a great show as they did during the 2005 and 2007 editions of the UEFA Champions League Final.
From the moment the referee blew the whistle, it became clear who wanted this match more. Liverpool began to dominate possession and looked to string dangerous through balls with the help of arguably their two best playmakers Philippe Coutinho and newcomer Sadio Mane. As they began to dictate gameplay, they attempted to expose the Milan backline, more specifically their fullbacks Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonelli who often had to watch the ball go over their head and eventually land at the foot of the Liverpool wingers.
20 minutes into the match, Liverpool took control of the ball more and more, forcing Milan to retreat every player to their defensive half, thus allowing Klopp’s men to dominate the match. Former Southampton attacker Sadio Mane began to show his teammates and fans why exactly Liverpool signed him. The Senegalese international began to dictate the flow of the game by instilling his creative skill into the heart of the Liverpool offense, playing extremely dangerous through balls into the path of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge who to Milan’s fortune were never able to make something of it.
33 minutes in, Milan was forced to make their first substitution of the match, as Andrea Bertolacci was unable to continue due to an injury. Slovakian international Juraj Kucka replaced him and the Rossoneri’s midfield began to close down spaces with a bit more intensity in an attempt to relieve some of the pressure applied by the Reds.
Milan began to look a bit more alive offensively as Mbaye Niang and Niccolo El Zanellato both attempted to open up the score with long-range shots which caused no threat to Simone Mignolet’s goal.
Liverpool were quick to respond as Adam Lallana saw a cheeky chip attempt land just over Milan’s crossbar. Minutes later, Coutinho found an unmarked Sadio Mane in the box who’s shot was well blocked by Gabriel, keeping things from getting messy.
First half ended on a very low note for Milan who were very lucky not to concede. The midfield often found itself outrun and outplayed by Liverpool’s playmakers. As for the English, it was definitely a bright spot to see such exquisite chemistry between Coutinho and Mane who will surely be creating loads of problem to their opponents this season.
The second half began, and much like the first half, it was Liverpool who dominated possession and began to threaten a Milan defense, which looked a lot more fragile without Romagnoli on the pitch.
At this point, things began to play more and more in Liverpool’s favor mainly because of Divock Origi who would eventually make sure this match went his team’s way and his team’s way only. The Belgian international opened the score sheet in the 59’ minute after beating Gabriel Paletta in an isolation play and firing a potent shot into the bottom left corner of Gabriel’s goal.
Milan were now forced to look for an equalizer and began to push forward with more intensity. To many’s surprise, Ignazio Abate found Niang with an accurate cross to the back post, unfortunately however, the Frenchman’s header was weak and never caused Mignolet any trouble.
The Rossoneri’s poor physical and mental state began to ease things up for Liverpool and the Reds began to look for their second goal via their 19-year-old academy player Sheyi Ojo, who single handedly turned Milan’s defense inside out with his explosiveness and skillful dribbling.
Surely enough it would be through Ojo where Liverpool’s second goal would be fabricated. In the 72nd minute the former Wigan midfielder saw his shot on goal deflected into the path of a sprinting Roberto Firmino who first timed shot into a relatively open goal, thus doubling the lead for Liverpool.
Montella’s men continued to look for some type of spark to ignite their offense, this time through Giacomo Bonaventura who crossed a dangerous ball to Keisuke Honda, who’s header did nothing to trouble the Liverpool goalkeeper, as had been the case for Milan throughout the match.
Liverpool took the deserved victory over their longtime European rivals and celebrated their solid win in front of a large crowd of supporters who passionately sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to their players as soon as the last whistle was blown.
Milan will look to bounce back at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis this Wednesday when they take on Antonio Conte’s Chelsea FC in what will be their final match of this edition of the International Champions Cup.
Milan – Gabriel 5, Abate 5, Vergara 4, Romagnoli 6, Antonelli 6, Bertolacci 4, Montolivo 5, Zanellato 5, Niang 6, Suso 5, Luiz Adriano 5.
Substitutes- Kucka 5, Matri 4, Poli 5, Paletta 3, Honda 5, Bonaventura 5, Calabria 4.
Liverpool – Mignolet 5, Arnold 6, Lovren 6, Klavan 6, Milner 5, Henderson 5, Wijnaldum 5, Lallana 5.5, Coutinho 6, Mane 6, Sturridge 5.
Substitutes – Origi , Markovic 6, Clyne 5, Firmino 6, Stewart 5, Moreno 6, Ojo 6.5 Randall N/A, Brannagan N/A, Wisdom N/A.