Liverpool arrived at the San Siro with nothing really to play for in their final Champions League group game of the season – but they left as history-makers, with a deserved 2-1 win.
AC Milan needed to win to have a chance of progressing to the quarter-finals, but were comfortably dealt with by a much-changed Liverpool outfit.
Jurgen Klopp made eight changes to his side from the 1-0 win over Wolves on the weekend, yet there was no real drop in quality.
Fikayo Tomori gave AC Milan the lead from a corner before Mohamed Salah hit back with a calmly-taken rebound following Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot.
Tomori then turned villain after the break as his mistake allowed Sadio Mane to blast at goal and Divock Origi to head home the rebound after Mike Maignan’s shaky save.
Milan failed to muster much of a comeback, with Franck Kessie’s attempted chip kept out by Alisson in their best opening.
Victory saw Liverpool secure qualification in style, becoming the first English side to win all six of their Champions League group stage games.
On another good European night for the Reds, here are the three things Klopp got right and one he got wrong.
The mental scars of Diogo Jota’s injury in a Champions League dead rubber against FC Midtjylland last December run deep.
There was a near-mutinous feeling among Liverpool fans last winter after Klopp opted to start the in-form Portuguese forward against the Danish side, only for the decision to backfire through injury.
That is why eight changes were not seen as enough by some supporters tonight; many would rather Salah was wrapped in cotton wool, such is his importance.
But he wasn’t. And it was a good job too, as the Egyptian netted Liverpool’s equaliser with a composed finish.
Salah notched his 20th goal in just his 21st appearance of the season to become the first Liverpool player since the great Ian Rush to reach the landmark in five consecutive seasons for the club.
He now has 11 goals in Liverpool’s last 11 Champions League matches, having scored in nine of them.
The 29-year-old could well be on for a record-breaking campaign, too, given he is already three goals ahead of where he was at this stage of his 44-goal campaign back in 2017/18.
With his work done, Salah was substituted in the 65th minute unscathed, allowing Reds fans to breathe a sigh of relief.
Virgil van Dijk was among the senior players who did not make the trip to Milan, giving Ibrahima Konate a chance to shine against a side who were desperate to win.
Konate has had to bide his time since joining from RB Leipzig in the summer, with Joel Matip preferred alongside Van Dijk by Klopp.
But he was the senior defender at the San Siro, playing alongside Nat Phillips and against Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Ibrahimovic may be 40 years old and past his brilliant best, but he still has six goals in nine Serie A appearances this season.
The 22-year-old relished the challenge, performing well against the big Swede, who was given barely a sniff of goal.
HAVE YOUR SAY! What did you make of Liverpool's performance against AC Milan? Comment below.
Not every decision went Klopp’s way, however, with AC Milan taking the lead in the 29th minute after a messy set piece.
Takumi Minamino was the player at fault, allowing an in-swinging corner through at the near post.
Alisson could only parry it out into the danger area, allowing Tomori the simple task of turning in the rebound.
As Rio Ferdinand commented at half-time on BT Sport, teams usually position their centre-forward at the front post, a position Didier Drogba trademarked at Chelsea.
Minamino is a slight midfielder and his timidness could have cost his team.
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The African Cup of Nations has been looming large for Liverpool in recent weeks, with the departures of Salah, Mane and Naby Keita for a month in the New Year a clear problem for Klopp.
There has been lots of discussion about Liverpool’s options in the January transfer window, but such an intervention might not be needed thanks to Origi’s timely impact.
Origi could well have left Liverpool in the summer but he has bided his time and made his mark at the perfect time, netting the vital late winner against Wolves and another against Milan.
The Belgian rightly has cult status at Liverpool thanks to his array of iconic goals. This one does not fit that bill, but it may have far-reaching consequences in the upcoming transfer window.
Klopp deserves plenty of credit for the way he has managed his back-up striker.
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