Dubai: Liverpool and AC Milan rounded off the Dubai Super Cup at the Al Maktoum Stadium with the European heavyweights battling it out for a win after making losing starts in the competition. They wanted to bow out on a positive note what with domestic duties soon to be back on the agenda after the World Cup in Qatar.
It was a chance for Jurgen Klopp’s Reds to get another 90 minutes of competitive action under their belts ahead of their last 16 League Cup clash against Manchester City on December 22nd and then their Boxing Day Premier League fixture with Aston Villa. The Rossoneri were looking for victory before they got back to serious business on January 4th in Serie A against Salernitana.
Liverpool, who were well beaten 3-1 by Lyon in their first match of the tournament, made a bright start and pinned the Italians back with Mohammed Salah and Roberto Firmino seeing plenty of the ball. They were ably assisted in attack by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain playing behind the pair and the three looked dangerous in the early exchanges and it was the Egyptian international who put the Reds ahead after just five minutes after good work from Joel Matip. The defender played Salah in and from six yards he buried a cool finish past Antonio Mirante.
AC Milan, who had lost their opener to eventual Dubai Super Cup winners Arsenal, began to play their way back into the match after the early setback. Captain Sandro Tonali put in several biting tackles in a bid to stamp his authority on the midfield while Marko Lazetic looked dangerous up top. Their pressure was rewarded on the half hour mark thanks to Alexis Jesse Saelmaekers’s fine finish from the edge of the box into the bottom corner past the helpless Kelleher.
Salah almost immediately put Liverpool back in front when he burst through on goal but Mirante’s clearance hit him and the ball ricocheted onto the post and out to safety. But, five minutes from half time they did regain the lead thanks to a beautiful strike from 20 yards by Thiago Alcantara. James Milner’s cross was only half cleared by Matteo Gabia and Alcantara took one touch to control the ball before drilling a powerful right-foot shot into the bottom corner much to the delight of the vast majority of Liverpool fans packed inside the venue.
In the second half Klopp made several changes and on came Darwin Nunez, Fabio Carvalho and Naby Keita for Firmino, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Milner while Pioli brought on Bennacer for Tonali and the changes seemed to disrupt the flow of the match. But then Milan almost restored parity when Lazetic smashed an effort against the cross bar from 25 yards out with substitute keeper Adrian beaten.
40 yard pass
Liverpool went further ahead after a sublime 40 yard defense splitting pass from Bobby Clark to feed Nunez and the striker made no mistake with a smart right-foot finish from 12 yards. At 3-1 up, Klopp substituted Salah who received a standing ovation from the 15,000-strong crowd. Nathaniel Phillips almost added a fourth but saw his shot from a tight angle come back off the post but with two minutes remained Clark and Nunez combined again with the Uruguayan grabbing his second from close range. Livewire Clark nearly added a fifth before full time and the performance would have pleased Klopp what with City up next.
This was Milan’s second defeat and it meant they finished bottom of the Dubai Super Cup group and Pioli will need a response from the team if they are to close the gap on Serie A leaders Napoli.