Sunday, February 25

Firmino 9/10, Van Dijk 8/10 as Liverpool past tough Inter Milan test


Liverpool were back in Champions League action on Wednesday night and secured a hard-fought 2-0 win against Internazionale at the San Siro. Chances were few and far between for Jurgen Klopp’s side in the first half, with the best opportunities coming from set pieces and when being created from winning the ball high up the pitch.

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Hakan Calhanoglu fired a warning shot to the Reds as he found space inside the box and unleashed a strike that smashed against the woodwork, and that was one of multiple problems that the Serie A champions caused on the night. Inter started the second half on the front foot and it looked as though Liverpool didn’t have an answer for their overloads down both flanks.

Ivan Perisic found space time and time again, and that saw Klopp trigger a triple substitution to gain back some control of the match. The storm soon passed with a noticeable drop in intensity after the changes, and it was Roberto Firmino who took advantage, heading home exquisitely from Andy Robertson’s corner in the 75th minute.

That goal looked to take the wind completely out of Inter’s sails, with a poor clearance then being pounced on by Mohamed Salah to secure a two-goal advantage for the return leg at Anfield.

Positives

The Reds weathered the storm with Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate showing that they can answer when called upon. Inter’s best opportunities were quickly snuffed out by the centre-back pairing, while Alisson’s commanding of the area helped instill a level of calmness.

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Negatives

Liverpool were sloppy at times and conceded possession too easily in dangerous areas, with Internazionale aggressively able to get to the ball and begin attacks. Too much space was conceded down the channels with Ivan Perisic enjoying plenty of joy on the left; though the Reds weren’t punished on this occasion, they could have been on another night.

Manager Rating out of 10

Jurgen Klopp 8 — A positive team selection showed Klopp’s intent to take the advantage in the first leg, and the German manager wasted no time in making changes when he saw that things weren’t going to plan. That decisiveness was rewarded, with Liverpool regaining control and taking the lead through Firmino.

Player Ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Alisson, 7 — Liverpool’s No. 1 commanded his area well tonight and that was important with Inter often working the ball to the flanks and delivering dangerous crosses.

DF Andy Robertson, 6 — The Scotland captain defended well for the most part, but the opponent’s style meant he couldn’t get forward as much as he wanted to on the night. A well-taken corner found Firmino for the opener.

DF Virgil van Dijk, 8 — The 30-year-old centre-back looked assured as he handled the threat of Edin Dzeko throughout the game. A crucial intervention stopped the ball getting to Lautaro Martinez in the second half as the Netherlands captain kept an intensive attack at bay.

DF Ibrahima Konate, 8 — A vital block stopped Perisic’s ball from reaching the intended target and that was a highlight in an all-round solid performance in a tough game by the centre-back.

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DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 6 — The right-back came close with a freekick that looked to have beat Samir Handanovic, but just beat the post. Lost track of Perisic early in the second half whose cross was fired into a perilous area.

MF Fabinho, 6 — The Brazil international battled strongly in the middle of the park, winning the ball high up and hassling Internazionale players in possession, but he could have been more careful in possession. After a slow start to the second half, he was replaced by Jordan Henderson.

MF Thiago, 7 — Strong in the tackle and looked unflustered when in possession in the middle of an intense Champions League tie. Positioned well to break up attacks and played deeper when under pressure.

MF Harvey Elliott, 6 — Elliott tried to make things happen when in possession, though sometimes he could have done more to keep the ball. Replaced in the second half for Naby Keita, but wasn’t at fault in a game which Inter had taken over at the start of the second half.

FW Sadio Mane, 5 — Some of Liverpool’s best chances fell to Mane who could have done better with the opportunities presented to him.

FW Diogo Jota, 5 — Jota has been in impressive form of late but his threat seemed to be nullified by the Serie A side during the first half. Replaced at half time for Firmino.

FW Mohamed Salah, 6 — The play broke down too much when it found Salah on the night, with the Egypt international struggling to make an impact before his goal in the 88th minute, reacting first to a poor clearance in the box.

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Substitutes

FW Roberto Firmino, 9 — Firmino was introduced at the break for Jota and linked play well, dropping deep and moving the ball quickly into Liverpool’s wide men. An excellent header from a corner gave Handanovic no chance to make the save.

MF Naby Keita, 6 — Keita’s introduction for Elliot with a half hour left added a layer of much-needed experience for Klopp’s side who were being overrun in the midfield.

MF Jordan Henderson, 7 — As another 59th minute substitute replacing Fabinho, the Liverpool captain’s leadership was vital at a time when his side looked lost after starting the second half.

FW Luis Diaz, 6 — Also part of the trio of impact substitutes, Diaz came in for Mane and added unpredictability to Liverpool’s attack that troubled Inter’s back line. Almost scored shortly after coming on but saw his effort saved.

MF James Milner, N/R — An 800th career appearance for Milner, coming on in the 86th minute for Thiago.

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