It must be the new ball. I mean, for 38 minutes Liverpool were so good, but then the ball pops and the new one just doesn’t roll for them. It’s the only sensible explanation. “I suspect that such a reversal of fortunes in a contest between these sides in this competition is not only unprecedented, but has never happened before,” insists Paul Griffin.
Half time: Liverpool 1-2 Milan
45+2 mins: Incredibly, astonishingly, Milan lead at the interval.
45+1 mins: There will be about one minute of stoppage time.
GOAL! Liverpool 1-2 Milan (Leao, 44 mins)
After massively dominating for 40 minutes, Liverpool are going to be behind at the break! It’s another excellent and pacey move, which ends with Rebic squaring for Leao, whose shot is brilliantly blocked by Robertson, but Brahim Diaz turns in the loose ball!
GOAL! Liverpool 1-1 Mila (Rebic, 42 mins)
Milan have their first shot on target – and it goes in! It’s an excellent build-up that ends with Kessie finding Rebic in space, and he sidefoots a low shot past Alisson!
40 mins: Origi and Tomori challenge for the same ball. It looked to me like Tomori got the ball and Origi kicked Tomori’s foot with the top of his. It’s not a foul, but Origi is down.
38 mins: Popped football! The ball refuses to bounce, and the referee sends it off and orders a new one.
36 mins: Factually correct corner count: 10. I saw Liverpool against Leeds at the weekend as well, and they look to be at peak Klopp-era levels. There may be some teams who can live with the pace and accuracy of their attacking, but not many.
33 mins: Maignan gets his legs muddled to gift Liverpool another corner, from which they win another corner, from which Alexander-Arnold eventually overhits a cross. Liverpool corner count: eight.
32 mins: Liverpool have turned the pressure back on, but assorted defenders have thrown themselves about to block assorted shots, and Maignan has not been beaten again.
30 mins: Save! The ball is worked infield from the left to Salah, just outside the area, whose shot is tipped over the bar.
29 mins: Milan do some attacking things! But Rafael Leao’s cross from the left is cleared.
28 mins: The referee gives a free-kick against Fabinho, who leaps to his feet and flings his arms around in frustration at the decision. Not a good move: Szymon Marciniak, the referee, gives him a stringent dressing down.
25 mins: The pace has dipped a bit in the last few minutes, and Milan have started to have a bit of gentle possession. They will be relieved to have reached this point with a single-goal deficit.
23 mins: Corner-kick fans should keep an eye on the tally here – since the start of last season the most Liverpool have had in any one game is 13.
19 mins: Liverpool win their fifth corner, which is taken from the right, re-centred from the left and re-centred from the right, and eventually Matip has another header saved.
16 mins: Liverpool have already had 13 shots. What they’ve been doing to Milan is borderline barbaric.
Maignan saves the penalty!
14 mins: Salah’s penalty is hit with plenty of power but only just left of centre, and Maignan couldn’t fail to save it having gone the right way. The ball loops out to a red shirt and is headed goalwards again, but Maignan is up in time to catch.
Penalty to Liverpool!
13 mins: Robinson’s shot hits Bennacer’s left arm, which isn’t far from his body but is in an unnaturally raised position, and the referee points to the spot!
12 mins: Salah executes a fabulous spin in the area to take Hernandez out of the picture, but this time Tomori’s sliding challenge to deflect the ball wide this time. The question is whether Milan will still be in the game by the time they get a foothold in it.
11 mins: Salah rolls a pass through Theo Hernández’s legs to Origi. Liverpool have been hilariously good so far.
GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 Milan (Tomori own goal, 9 mins)
It’s been coming! Salah’s return pass to Alexander-Arnold is beautifully paced to take Leao out of the game, and the right-back bursts into the area, runs to the edge of the six-yard box and tries to square for Jota only for the sliding Tomori to deflect it in!
8 mins: Save! From the ensuing corner, Matip’s header is caught by Maignan.
8 mins: Origi wins the ball on the right, and for a moment Jota is completely clear in the middle. Origi tries to find him, but his centre is too feeble and Kjaer intercepts.
5 mins: Milan are being turned to mush down the left flank, and this time the ball is touched to Jota, who shifts it onto his left foot and has a shot that deflects wide.
3 mins: And a chance! Robertson fizzes in a cross from the left, and Origi touches it wide at the near post. Henderson, notably, was bombing into the centre-forward position there.
2 mins: A strong start for the home side, and Keita has the night’s first shot, a 20-yard left-footer. It’s not a very good one, and Kjaer blocks.
1 min: Players of both sides take the knee, before Mo Salah starts the game for the home side.
Right then. The players are out, the coin has been tossed, pennants exchanged. Now for the football.
You’ll Never Walk Alone has been sung, and the players are gathering in the tunnel.
“Nothing to learn here? Wait a minute, yes there is,” insists Sammy Lopez. “On the left, there’s one with no nameplate! Rude, or forgetful?” That’s Nathaniel “one-pair” Phillips, who has played 21 times for Liverpool now, probably enough for a nameplate you’d have thought.
Jurgen Klopp addresses his team selection:
I had to force myself to be really sensible. That’s how it is, we had to be like this. We have a lot of games coming up. It’s not exactly what Virgil wanted, it’s not what I wanted either, but it’s what we needed. It’s a good line-up, the boys know each other and will play really well. Up front we need speed, we have to use the squad. It’s nothing to do with disrespecting Milan or whatever, it’s just bringing fresh legs. I always believe in Divock, I always did, and I’m pretty sure he’ll have a good game tonight.
Inside the Liverpool dressing room. There’s not really a lot to learn here, except the footwear inconsistency: Nathaniel Phillips has one pair of boots (plus a pair of sliders, everyone’s got a pair of sliders), many players have two, and some – Jota, Milner, Salah, Gomez – have three. I would say that one pair of boots is not enough, but that three is too many. Essentially, two feels right.
Headline news: Virgil van Dijk can put his feet up, being as he is only on the bench, because Joe Gomez, who has played one minute of first-team football since last November, is back in the starting XI. So too is Divock Origi, while Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita replace Thiago and the injured Harvey Elliott in midfield.
Liverpool v Milan, you say? Don’t mind if I do. Two clubs oozing European pedigree but which the gods of randomness have previously decreed never should meet outside Champions League finals. Everyone will remember the phenomenal 2005 final, fewer the more humdrum 2007 version, but those are the only ever competitive meetings between these sides. Liverpool have played Inter four times, Juventus and Napoli six times each, and Roma on seven occasions, but somehow their orbit and Milan’s never quite intersects. Liverpool have played Udinese, Genoa and Fiorentina as often as they have played the Rossoneri.
But now they are set to double their all-time head-to-head match count in the space of a few weeks, and we are alive to witness it. Milan have started their domestic season handily – three wins in their first three games with a 7-1 aggregate – and Liverpool likewise – three wins in their first four games with an 8-1 aggregate. With Atlético Madrid and Porto also in the group there’s little room for error here: three home wins and one positive away result is the most obvious formula for progression.
“This is the strongest group we have had since I am at Liverpool, no doubt about that,” says Jürgen Klopp. “In 2013 at Dortmund we had a real Champions League group as well. We had Manchester City, Real Madrid and Ajax, which was a proper group where people said: ‘Oh my God, how will we get through?’ This is a proper group as well. This group will be exciting from the first second to the last second.”
So, to summarise: exciting times. Thanks for sharing them with me. Now, for more of Klopp’s pre-match thoughts, read this: