Two late goals saw Liverpool secure a crucial Champions League last 16 first leg advantage over Inter on Wednesday night in an engrossing clash at San Siro.
Substitute Roberto Firmino’s flicked header and a deflected Mohamed Salah finish were the difference as the Nerazzurri’s resolve was eventually broken.
The visitors had the better of a frenetic first half, although it was Inter who went closest in a compelling 45 minutes of football. A low mist contributed to the unique atmosphere, with the noise cacophonous despite a reduced capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Lautaro Martinez hit the stanchion from the edge of the box five minutes in, before Thiago Alcantara sliced a volley onto the roof of the net at the other end. Sadio Mane spurned Liverpool‘s best chance of the half when he headed Andy Robertson’s free kick over from just six yards out.
He was almost made to pay for that miss two minutes later when Hakan Calhanoglu popped up in the Reds’ box after good work from Ivan Perisic on the left, but he cracked his effort against the crossbar.
Mane had another opportunity midway through the half, but he misjudged an overhead kick and hit the side-netting. Trent Alexander-Arnold then stepped up and whipped a free kick just wide of the top left-hand corner.
Inter began the second period on the front foot and caused Liverpool issues with their intensity in midfield. They were stout at the other end, too, with Milan Skriniar doing brilliantly to block an effort from substitute Luis Diaz.
However, despite looking the more likely to go ahead they were brought crashing back down to earth with a quarter of an hour to go when Firmino rose to meet Robertson’s corner and flicked a header into the far corner.
Perisic came so close to levelling, but his powerful side-foot sailed over Alisson’s crossbar. With seven minutes remaining, Salah put Jurgen Klopp’s side into the driving seat in the tie, sweeping home a deflected shot after Virgil van Dijk’s knockdown and knocking the stuffing out of the hosts.
Here’s how the players rated…
Bastoni marshals Salah / James Williamson – AMA/GettyImages
Samir Handanovic (GK) – 4/10 – Seemed to dive in slow motion for the opener. No chance with the second after being wrong-footed.
Milan Skriniar (CB) – 7/10 – Great block to deny Jota’s goal-bound strike. Rock solid on the ground and in the air. So many crucial interventions.
Stefan de Vrij (CB) – 6/10 – Seemed to have an issue with his vision but played on – and did pretty well considering. Won plenty of duels but failed to clear in the build-up to Liverpool’s second.
Alessandro Bastoni (CB) – 6/10 – Looked slightly daunted by Liverpool’s front three. Grew in confidence and began to venture forward to good effect. Beaten in the air as Firmino headed home.
Vidal was everywhere / Giuseppe Cottini/GettyImages
Denzel Dumfies (RWB) – 6/10 – Good battle with Robertson on that flank, although the Scot probably had the better of it. Flashed a header wide.
Arturo Vidal (CM) – 7/10 – Warrior-like in midfield, but sometimes a little too literally. He was absolute everywhere as Inter seized control of midfield.
Marcelo Brozovic (CM) – 6/10 – Watchful and intelligent at the base of midfield, although perhaps less involved than those either side of him.
Hakan Calhanoglu (CM) – 7/10 – Very lively initially. Came so, so close to opening the scoring, thumping a shot off the bar. Always carried a threat with his vision and movement.
Ivan Perisic (LWB) – 8/10 – Caused Trent Alexander-Arnold some serious problems, roasting him on a few occasions. Crossing was so dangerous, too, and went close with a thumped effort.
Dzeko and Lautaro led the line / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/GettyImages
Edin Dzeko (ST) – 6/10 – Dropped deep to get involved but didn’t have any clear chances.
Lautaro Martinez (ST) – 4/10 – Flashed an early shot just wide. Faded from that moment on, never really getting involved. Subbed.
Alexis Sanchez (ST) – 5/10 – Couldn’t make an impact.
Matteo Darmian (RWB) – N/A
Andrea Ranocchia (CB) – N/A
Roberto Gagliardini (CM) – N/A
Federico Dimarco (CB) – N/A
You shall not pass / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages
Alisson (GK) – 6/10 – Hardly tested throughout, but good with his feet.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB) – 6/10 – Given a problem by Ivan Perisic’s pace. Came within a whisker with a free kick. Deep cross eventually led to the second.
Ibrahima Konate (CB) – 7/10 – Excellent defending to cut out a cross into Edin Dzeko. Same again later on. Some excellent tackling. Ice cool.
Virgil van Dijk (CB) – 8/10 – Unfazed by everything that came his way. Caught up with Dzeko and denied him when the striker was clean through. Assist for Salah to boot.
Andy Robertson (LB) – 8/10 – Did excellently against Dumfries and bagged a set-piece assist for Firmino with a corner.
Thiago in action / James Williamson – AMA/GettyImages
Fabinho (DM) – 6/10 – Started well but began to lose control of the midfield, being beaten in plenty of duels. Subbed.
Harvey Elliott (CM) – 5/10 – Looked overawed by the occasion initially but settled down. Subbed on the hour but wasn’t bad.
Thiago Alcantara (CM) – 7/10 – Passed and tackled well but struggled against the combative Inter midfield. Influence increased towards the end of the game.
Salah toiled / Giuseppe Cottini/GettyImages
Mohamed Salah (RW) – 7/10 – Toiled but didn’t have things his own way, but popped up to make it 2-0 with a mis-hit finish. Clutch.
Diogo Jota (ST) – 5/10 – Struggled to get into the match and was hooked at half-time. Didn’t do anything wrong, per se. Unclear whether he was injured or not.
Sadio Mane (LW) – 6/10 – Should have scored early on, but headed over from just six yards out. Unlucky to see an overhead kick fly wide. Subbed in the second half.
Firmino celebrates / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages
Roberto Firmino (ST) – 7/10 – Excellent flicked header, looping the ball into the corner where it nestled.
Naby Keita (CM) – 5/10 – Busied himself with defensive work.
Luis Diaz (LW) – 6/10 – Looked a threat as soon as he came on. Perhaps should have scored but denied brilliantly.
Jordan Henderson (CM) – 6/10 – Helped regain control in midfield.
James Milner (CM) – N/A
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