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Conor Bradley makes more Liverpool history on Champions League debut against AC Milan

Liverpool 2-1 AC Milan

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Conor Bradley is congratulated by heroic Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.

Conor Bradley is congratulated by heroic Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.

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Conor Bradley is congratulated by heroic Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.

Conor Bradley made history at the San Siro last night as the 18-year-old became the first Northern Ireland player ever to play for Liverpool in European football when he came off the bench in injury time in an impressive victory against AC Milan in the Champions League.

Mo Salah and Divock Origi scored the goals for Jurgen Klopp as they made it six wins out of six in the group stages of the competition and it was also a memorable evening for the teenager from Tyrone.

In September, in a League Cup tie win over Norwich, Bradley wrote himself into the record books becoming the first Northern Ireland player since Sammy Smyth in 1954 to play a competitive first team match for the Reds and now he has carved out a piece of history in Europe.

Liverpool did not play in European competition until 1964 and Smyth was long gone by then, therefore when Bradley entered the fray in the 93rd minute for Neco Williams he broke new ground.

Already an established player in the Northern Ireland senior squad the experience in the iconic San Siro, where he touched the ball seconds before the final whistle, is the latest step in Bradley’s development.

Salah scored his 20th goal of the season as Liverpool became the first English side to win all six Champions League group matches.

He was quickest to react when goalkeeper Mike Maignan failed to hold Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot to score with a 36th-minute strike to equalise Fikayo Tomori’s opener.

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Origi’s first Champions League goal since their 2019 final victory settled the tie but unlike Saturday’s added-time heroics at Wolves, he had to share the headlines with Salah.

The Egyptian is the first Liverpool player to score 20-plus in five consecutive seasons since Ian Rush, who managed it six times up to 1986-87, and the third-quickest in the club’s history — behind Rush and the late Roger Hunt — to reach the mark.

Salah’s professionalism and excellent fitness record suggests the investment in a player who turns 30 in June would not be frivolous and is one of the reasons he started this game when eight of his team-mates from the weekend did not.

Alisson Becker and Sadio Mane were the others retained, with the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara not even travelling to Italy which meant Klopp named five academy players on the bench.

Despite that Milan - needing to win and Porto and Atletico Madrid to draw to reach the last 16 – appeared reluctant to test their opponents early on. However, their first corner in the 28th minute saw them take the lead as Takumi Minamino made a mess of the inswinging cross, forcing Alisson to hurriedly parry, and Tomori poked home from close range.

Origi, given a rare start, forced the first save from Maignan but the Milan goalkeeper could not hold on when Oxlade-Chamberlain unleashed one and Salah made the half-volley finish look much easier.

The club records of the first player to score in five group games in one season and also the most goals (seven) are mere footnotes for Salah.

Origi, however, is a man carving out his own slice of Liverpool history and a looping 55th-minute header from Mane’s parried shot after he had robbed Tomori only added to his cult status.

AC Milan: Maignan, Kalulu Kyatengwa, Tomori, Romagnoli, Hernandez, Tonali, Kessie, Messias, Diaz, Krunic, Ibrahimovic.

Subs not used: Tatarusanu, Bennacer, Toure, Florenzi, Maldini, Bakayoko, Gabbia, Saelemaekers, Jungdal.

Liverpool: Alisson, Williams, Konate, Phillips, Tsimikas, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Morton, Minamino, Salah, Origi, Mane.

Subs not used: Fabinho, Keita, Gomez, Robertson, Matip, Dixon-Bonner, Kelleher, Alexander-Arnold, Bradley, Davies, Norris, Woltman.

Referee: Danny Makkelie (Holland)

Man of the match: Mo Salah

Match rating: 6/10


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