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Six of the best for Reds as Origi rounds off perfect group stage

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Divock Origi of Liverpool celebrates after scoring their side's second goal during the UEFA Champions League group B match between AC Milan and Liverpool FC at the San Siro. Credit: Getty

Divock Origi of Liverpool celebrates after scoring their side's second goal during the UEFA Champions League group B match between AC Milan and Liverpool FC at the San Siro. Credit: Getty

Divock Origi of Liverpool celebrates after scoring their side's second goal during the UEFA Champions League group B match between AC Milan and Liverpool FC at the San Siro. Credit: Getty

Divock Origi’s status as a Liverpool cult hero was established well before this week but at the San Siro he added another entry to his showreel of significant goals.

Four days after rescuing his team-mates with a last-gasp winner at Wolves, here he stooped to head in a winner that ensured Jurgen Klopp’s side became the first English team to progress from the Champions League group stage with a 100 per cent record.

It may not have been as memorable as his goal in the 2019 final, but Origi keeps reminding us of his class off the bench. Klopp says being a world-class player does not mean being a regular for Liverpool.

Origi is proof of that. He showed coolness in front of goal when others may be tempted to snatch at their rare opportunities to hit the headlines. His winner meant Milan finished bottom of the group.

Earlier in the match, Mohamed Salah did his best to take a supposedly meaningless evening for Liverpool and turn it into an event. With first place in their Champions League group already secured, the temptation would be to rest Salah to face Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa team at the weekend but he effortlessly glided around the San Siro and cancelled out Fikayo Tomori’s goal to break through the 20-goal barrier for the season with Christmas decorations barely put up.

Klopp had promised changes before the match, suggesting that his medical department would take a dim view on playing his first-team players with five matches in 15 days coming up in December.

But Salah is the type of player who sees every match as an opportunity to add to his goal tally, regardless of the fact Liverpool had already sealed top place in Group B and were safely in Monday’s draw for the last-16 before taking the flight to Milan.

With Sadio Mane also included, Klopp’s frontline was a selection that had a perfect record in the group stage in their sights. It was only further back in his team that the likes of Tyler Morton (19) were given a chance to test himself against the highest level of club football.

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Neco Williams (20) was also fielded against a Milan team who had everything to play for, with all possibilities including the Europa League and complete elimination from Europe possible for them at the start of the evening.

They needed the result in Porto to go their way, coupled with a victory against the champions of three seasons ago. It was the type of tall order Zlatan Ibrahimovic has thrived on during his career and he led the Milan attack. At the other end, Tomori has been among Milan’s standout performers after taking the decision to leave the Premier League. He was the first to get sight of Alisson’s goal with a header from Franck Kessie’s free-kick.

To the naked eye, Tomori looks to have grown since his move, assuming the role of leader despite Alessio Romagnoli wearing the captain’s armband. He bravely threw himself in front of an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shot to prevent one chance, while also picking the right times to carry the ball out of defence.

It was little surprise that he would be involved in breaking the deadlock for Milan. The England centre-back tapped in from a few yards out after Junior Messias’s corner had caused problems. Takumi Minamino appeared put off by Romagnoli’s presence and the delivery slipped through Liverpool’s barrier. Alisson could only parry towards Tomori, whose task was simple enough.

The lead, however, did not last long as Salah levelled within six minutes.

Mike Maignan was at fault for the equaliser, the France goalkeeper parrying Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot into Salah’s path and the Egypt forward finding the roof of the net with his finish.

It meant another record chalked off by the Liverpool forward, setting a new club best for goals scored in a group stage of a European competition. It added to his goal against Milan at Anfield along with the hat-trick against Porto and two against Atletico Madrid when Liverpool had done the hard work in reaching the next round.

In the battle of the No 11s – Salah v Ibrahimovic – it was the Liverpool forward who was having a bigger impact on the game. Ibrahima Konate did well guiding the Sweden forward into areas of the pitch where he could not pose a threat.

Milan were furious with Dutch referee Danny Makkelie for failing to award a penalty when Kostas Tsimikas bundled over Kessie, then were dealt a further blow with Origi’s goal.

In his first mistake of the game, Tomori miscontrolled a straightforward passs and Mane seized the initiative. He forced a save from Maignan but, like for Salah’s goal, his parry went into the path of the opponent. Origi steered in his header for his second goal in four days. 

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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