Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Champions League hopes take a booster as AC Milan fade away against Liverpool
MILAN – Champions League glory has always eluded Zlatan Ibrahimovic, despite a glittering CV which has seen him play for Europe’s biggest clubs for a remarkable 20 years. And now, following AC Milan’s 2-1 loss to Liverpool at San Siro, the 40-year-old may have just played his last game of the competition.
Milan may be on their way to success, but time has caught up with Ibrahimovic. Yet another goal from Mohamed Salah – the Egypt international has now scored in seven successive Champions League away games – and a header from Divock Origi sealed Liverpool victory after Fikayo Tomori’s opener at the 29th minute and ensured them to finish first in Group B with a 100% record. .
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But it was a night when Milan needed to summon the spirit of their great teams – peerless teams that have won the Champions League – and they needed Ibrahimovic to roll back the years and inspire them towards the Victoire.
In the end, the former Ajax Amsterdam, Juventus, Internazionale, Barcelona, ââParis Saint-Germain and Manchester United striker looked like a star in decline with nothing more to offer and with his vacillating dream of Champions League success finally extinguished.
“This is football,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. “We’re trying to organize a team to stop him [Ibrahimovic] get the ball he wants. We defended exceptionally well. “
Serie A leaders Milan had entered the game with an outside chance of reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since the 2013-14 season, but Stefano Pioli’s side needed win and hope FC Porto fails. beat Atletico Madrid at the Estadio do Dragao.
The second part of the equation came to fruition with Atleti’s 3-1 victory in Portugal, but Milan couldn’t mind their own business despite being led by Tomori. The loss to Jurgen Klopp’s side left them at the bottom of the group, without even a Europa League campaign in the second half of the season to look forward to.
For Milan to even be able to qualify was an achievement in itself, having lost their first three games before drawing a draw for the fourth. But it was a false hope for the seven-time European champion.
Even though Klopp had made eight changes from the side that won at Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League this weekend, Liverpool were still way too strong for the Rossoneri, which lacked allure and invention.
And while Milan enjoyed the passionate backing of a boisterous Curva Sud inside the San Siro, and glimpses of flair from midfielder Sandro Tonali aside, Milan were clearly second best. The Milan Ultras, realizing that Pioli’s side are at the start of their journey rather than nearing its end, stayed on their side and refused to go negative. They know that good times return and that a first Scudetto since 2011 is a real prospect this season.
But with his contract expiring next June – four months before his 41st birthday – Ibrahimovic won’t be there if Milan again become a European force in the near future. It’s still a dangerous game to sideline Ibrahimovic and suggest he faced the final curtain, but it’s a safe bet he has now signed the Champions League with 49 goals in 128 appearances.
He’s not even close to the incredible Champions League goals of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and would love to have won just one of the nine European Cups these two icons have won between them and add to the 31 honors he has accumulated during his career. career. For many years Ibrahimovic was third – a distant one, all the same – in the hierarchy of world football superstars behind Ronaldo and Messi, and his legacy will be one of remarkable consistency and supreme physical form.
But against Liverpool, he was just a shadow of himself. Ibrahimovic struggled to win physical fights against Ibrahima Konate and Nathaniel Phillips and his lack of movement saw him hold the center third firmly. No player who completed the 90 minutes made fewer touches than Ibrahimovic’s 31. There was a flash from former Zlatan, in the 84th minute, when he attempted a kick over Franck Kessie’s cross, but it was a poorly timed connection and Liverpool’s goal was’ t threatened.
It was at the other end of the pitch that the stars really shone, with Salah and Sadio Mane constantly injuring Milan with the pace and movement Ibrahimovic can no longer provide. Both Salah and Mane, of course, already have a Champions League winner‘s medal in their collection after Liverpool’s 2019 success. Klopp’s side could win the competition again this season and no one will want to face them off. here the final in St. Petersburg next May. .
Ibrahimovic could have a Serie A winner’s medal at this point – potentially his fifth Italian title – but the Champions League is not taking place. Zlatan will not have his last dance.