Inter Milan 0-2 Liverpool
Liverpool left it late before dispatching Serie A champions Inter Milan in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie at the San Siro. In truth, Inter Milan were better for the first 75 minutes, but the quality of Liverpool, especially from their full-backs helped them to win the game. Simone Inzaghi will be happy with the performance but will be disappointed by the result. As for Jurgen Klopp, he can only be excited as his team will go into the second leg at Anfield with a two-goal advantage in hand. Liverpool have now beaten both Inter and AC Milan at the San Siro this campaign. Here are five things we learned from the very enthralling encounter.
Liverpool were outclassed tactically, but their setpiece ability saw them through
Liverpool won the game, but for much of it, they were outclassed by Inter Milan at the San Siro. The Nerazzurri silenced Liverpool’s free-scoring front three with their back three. Inter Milan put together some breathtaking combinations but they found Virgil Van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate in good form. Hakan Calhanoglu was linking play seamlessly between the lines. It wasn’t until a good setpiece delivery broke the deadlock. Just like against Burnley last weekend, Liverpool were not at their best but they scored from a setpiece. Andy Robertson’s venomous corner found Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian striker made no mistake. Despite being outwitted tactically, they won the game 2-0. Winner’s win, and that’s what Liverpool did.
Luis Diaz is electric
Immediately Luis Diaz replaced AFCON 2021 winner Sadio Mane in the second half, he added a spark to the game. Alongside fellow substitute Jordan Henderson, he took charge of the game. The Colombian is so sharp, dogged, and active. He brought a verve into the game and it livened his teammates. He was breezing past players with such directness that can only be admired. The Kop will love their new signing. Klopp would love having him too. Sadio Mane is still world-class but there is a visible decline. Luis Diaz can slot in seamlessly.
The two defenses came out on top
Vigil Van Dijk was imperious against Edin Dzeko. In a footrace, the Bosnian was no match for VVD. The Dutch captain was as dominant in the air winning 5/7 of his aerial duels. He completed 7 out of his 8 long balls and had a pass accuracy of 94%. Against two of the better strikers around, he was unflustered. He calmly dealt with everything that came his way. His partner Ibrahima Konate made three important interceptions that stopped very dangerous situations. The young Frenchman had a great game and looked like he belonged here. Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij, and Alessandro Bastoni were incredible too. The latter kept Mohamed Salah quiet for most of the tie. Skriniar was an immovable rock with his impeccable stand-tackling ability on show. De Vrij mopped up everything behind his two colleagues. It was a quality defensive display all around.
Inter Milan need to tie up new contracts for Marcelo Brozovic and Ivan Perisic immediately
The two Croatians put in wonderful performances in their positions. Brozovic snuffed out dangerous situations and started attacks quickly from midfield. He cut out passes, crosses, and foiled dangerous combinations in front of his defense. His calmness in possession and tidy (plus importantly expansive) passing allowed him to absorb Liverpool’s tireless midfield pressure. When the team needed an escape valve when the pressure got too much, he was there. Perisic at left-wing-back was asked to keep the width and stretch Liverpool. The winger pinned Trent Alexander-Arnold back for much of the game. He exposed TAA defensively and worked tirelessly down his flank. Both men were incredible against the six-time UCL winners. Their contracts finish in June and the Inter hierarchy needs to be doing all it can to renew. Inter CEO Giuseppe “Beppe” Marotta sounded confident that both men would renew ahead of kickoff. During the game, they showed how important they are to Inzaghi’s project.
Must be nice to have Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson as your full-backs
By the 70th minute, Liverpool didn’t have a shot on target. In the 77th, Andy Robertson whipped in a gorgeous ball that very few teams can defend and Firmino stuck the ball into the net. The quality of delivery from the Scotsman was impeccable. He is arguably the best left-back in the world right now. He was constantly buzzing with energy and he didn’t give Denzel Dumfries any room to venture. The 27-year-old is so good offensively and holds his own defensively. Trent Alexander-Arnold is not there defensively. Perisic exposed him so many times during the game. However, it was his incredible left-footed long ball that caused the danger for Salah’s goal. That sort of quality is what makes him world-class. Klopp must feel so good having these weapons in his Arsenal. These guys can turn a game around with one kick of the ball.