An impressive first half from Liverpool’s fringe+. Oxlade-Chamberlain has looked really sharp, and Salah just keeps on being Salah.
45+2 mins: We have had half of the time. This is not the result Milan need (Porto are drawing with Atletico Madrid, and are going through as it stands), nor the one Liverpool ideally want. A big second half to come.
43 mins: Ibrahimovic has the ball on the left. He waits for more support, before, once there are fully five teammates to aim at, he limply passes to Phillips, who clears. Meanwhile, here’s a report of sorts on the other Group B game:
41 mins: Liverpool, having made eight changes, have had 62% of possession away at the Serie A leaders, and are 8-3 up on goal attempts.
39 mins: Mane is played in down the left, and despite being obviously offside it allowed to run through and have a shot that deflects wide before a flag goes up.
38 mins: That is Salah’s 20th goal of the season. It is 7 December. He thus becomes the fourth player to score 20 goals or more in five successive seasons.
The equaliser! Excellent work from Oxlade-Chamberlain, who runs round two challenges and sends in a shot that’s not far from Maignan but that dips nastily. He pushes it out, but Salah gets to the rebound first.
35 mins: Another Liverpool corner comes to nothing. They have had five and done nothing with any of them, Milan have had one and scored from it.
32 mins: Nice feet from Origi inside the area, but he then blasts a left-footer straight at Maignan. As it stands Milan sit second, a point ahead of Porto who are drawing with Atletico Madrid.
And the home side take the lead! It’s curled towards the near post, Minamino misses a chance to volley it clear with his left foot and a surprised Alisson parries it out to Tomori, who slams in the loose ball.
28 mins: Milan break, and find Ibrahimovic in space on the right of the area, but Konate is back, holds him up and stops the shot coming in. Milan, though, have a corner.
25 mins: Liverpool win their third corner of the night. Milan are yet to have one. This time it isn’t immediately cleared, and Konate has time to shoot into a defender before it’s thumped away.
22 mins: Liverpool break, and the ball is passed to Oxlade-Chamberlain in the centre-forward position. Behind him Salah is completely free, but Oxlade-Chamberlain fails to control the ball, let alone pass it, and Milan take it off him.
20 mins: Kessie slips and loses the ball to Minamino in midfield, so grabs his opponent by the thigh and hauls him to the floor. The referee gives a free-kick, but no card.
15 mins: Tsimikas gets a chance to cross from the left, with Origi the obvious target. He instead picks out someone in about row 38 of the stand.
12 mins: Romagnoli is receiving treatment, having fallen with Origi after a successful challenge. Having seen a slow-motion replay I don’t think there’s any way either player could have been genuinely hurt there.
10 mins: No chances, but an encouraging opening. Milan have to win and are showing good positive intent, and Liverpool are hardly about to play the low block.
7 mins: Messias Junior pushes the ball past Tsimikas and tries to run straight through him. He gets a palm in the face for his troubles, goes down but the referee is unmoved.
4 mins: Neco Williams has the night’s first shot, a low effort from about 23 yards that rolls through to Maignan.
3 mins: It’s currently 4C in Milan, or thereabouts, and Klopp has his face hidden behind a snood or somesuch. On the pitch, his side has started quite brightly, but neither goal has been threatened so far.
The players are on their way out! “I hope Nat Phillips has emptied out his pocket,” writes Jake Lynch, “cos he’s going to have to fit the 6ft 5in Zlatan Ibrahimovic into it.”
Jurgen Klopp has a chat with BT Sport: “Look, we want to win the football game. We played five games in 14 days, and this is the only game when we really can make a change. We want to give it a go, we want to be aggressive, we want to go for it, but we will see.”
We the proud what? I tried searching for the phrase “we the proud” on a popular search engine, and the top result is “AC Milan we the proud coffee cup set”, and I will now go to the grave believing that if the photographer turned around the words “coffee cup set” would be emblazoned over the other half of the room.
In Group A, RB Leipzig have just doubled their advantage over Manchester City, and now lead 2-0. City will still win the group, mind, and PSG will come second unless they let slip a 3-1 lead over Club Bruges.
For Liverpool, who have cantered to victory in this group and take a 10-point lead into their final fixture, there is little to play for tonight except statistics (no English team has ever won 100% of their Champions League group fixtures) and pride, and in the build-up Jurgen Klopp gave a few subtle indications that as a result he might indulge in a little squad rotation: “We have to rotate. We will rotate,” he teased.
Stefano Pioli meanwhile will be playing the very best side he can, given Milan’s current injury issues. “Liverpool will press high up the pitch, but we know them well and if we get out of their press, we can create important opportunities,” he explained. “The more we are unpredictable, the more trouble we can create. We must have many offensive players without giving them any reference point. Imagine a defensive line that doesn’t know who to mark. That’s a situation that we must use. It’s useful to play these games. We’ll need sacrifice and commitment.”
They’ll also need a few other things to go their way, given that second spot could hardly be more hotly contested. Porto are current holders, and know that if they beat Atletico Madrid at home they will be through. Milan would catch Porto if they draw and the Portuguese side lose, but it won’t much help them because Atletico would overtake them both. While if Milan and Atletico both win some mathematics might have to come into it. The pair, you see, would not only be level on points, they would also have won the same number of points in games between each other (three), with identical goal differences in those games, and having scored the same number of goals. Next on the list of tiebreakers is goal difference across the entire group (Milan’s is one better than Atletico’s), followed by goals scored in all group matches (again Milan have one more), and goals scored away (which if we get this far is where Atletico would win, even though they go into the evening 3-2 down). It is, in short, a three-way race which might just turn out to be extremely exciting (but, for balance, might not).
Here’s a reminder of what happened the list time these sides met:
And here’s another: