Liverpool earned a dominant 4-1 victory over Serie A giants AC Milan in a mid-season Dubai Super Cup friendly, as they prepare for a return to domestic action next week.
The Reds were seeking to bounce back from defeat against Lyon in their opening fixture of the friendly tournament in the United Arab Emirates, which has been held during the winter break for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Jurgen Klopp’s side will return from their Dubai camp to begin a testing schedule, with a Carabao Cup tie against Manchester City just six days away.
Sportsmail takes a look at five things that we learned from Liverpool’s latest friendly in the Dubai Super Cup.
Darwin Nunez stars on return from World Cup disappointment with Uruguay
Klopp was full of praise pre-match for Darwin Nunez, after Liverpool’s record signing returned to training this week following Uruguay’s group stage exit from the World Cup.
‘We want to use the game to get more minutes in the legs,’ Klopp said. ‘He looks incredibly sharp and good, and very calm on the ball. ‘We do not want to force him. ‘He have started, but we didn’t want to force him.’
Klopp’s comments proved accurate with Nunez making an immediate impression after being introduced on the hour mark.
Darwin Nunez stuck twice from the bench after being introduced at the hour mark in Dubai
The 23-year-old had admitted his heartbreak at Uruguay’s World Cup exit, having been ineffective throughout the group stage. Nunez will look to put the disappointment behind him over the coming weeks, with the forward showing early intent against Milan.
Nunez tested goalkeeper Antonio Mirante shortly after being introduced to the action, before his late double in Dubai which owed thanks to two Liverpool youngsters.
The former Benfica forward grabbed his first goal with nine minutes remaining, racing onto Bobby Clarke’s through ball, before firing beyond Mirante. Nunez was perhaps fortunate to see his second stand, after appearing to have moved into an offside position to finish at the back post from Ben Doak’s cross.
Joel Matip gets crucial minutes but defensive concerns persist without Van Dijk
Liverpool’s break in Dubai has provided the perfect platform for Joel Matip to be eased back into action, with the defender having completed 90 minutes just twice in the league this season due to injury.
The training camp and two friendlies has given Matip much needed time to prepare for an intense period of matches. The 31-year-old completed an hour against Milan, before being replaced by Nat Phillips.
Matip played a key role in Liverpool’s opening goal against AC Milan with a trademark driving run forward, before finding Mo Salah in the box. The Egyptian took over and rolled the Reds in front.
Matip and Joe Gomez had been exposed against Lyon in the first friendly in Dubai and there were moments of concern against Milan. Virgil van Dijk’s return cannot come soon enough.
Despite largely dominating possession, a defensive lapse allowed Alexis Salemaekers to level for Milan in the first half against the run of play. The reigning Italian champions nearly levelled again in the second half after falling 2-1 behind, with Yous El Hilali hitting the crossbar with a curling effort.
Joel Matip started consecutive matches as he seeks to regain full match fitness
Spain’s pain is Liverpool’s gain as Thiago runs the midfield
Thiago was left out of Spain’s squad for the World Cup, with the 31-year-old left watching on as the 2010 champions crashed out against Morocco in the last-16.
Liverpool have been able to benefit from his omission, with Thiago having spent the World Cup break with his club team-mates in Dubai. His absence from Spain’s squad looked all the more surprising as the midfielder dictated play against Milan at the Al-Maktoum Stadium.
Thiago underlined his quality on the cusp of half-time, taking once touch out of his feet after a cross was half cleared by the defence, before firing an unstoppable low shot into the bottom corner.
Thiago gave Liverpool a half-time lead with a driven shot from the edge of the area
Thiago was left out of Spain’s World Cup squad but ran the midfield against AC Milan
A step up in intensity ahead of Manchester City clash
Klopp had called for his players to build upon their first half showing against Lyon after making just one change from the starting side from the previous friendly.
The German was rewarded with an impressive showing, with Milan struggling to match the Premier League side’s pressing during a high intensity opening period.
Salah and Roberto Firmino combined effectively in attacking areas, with the former a threat throughout his time on the pitch. The Egyptian star has enjoyed strong local support in Dubai during the trip and rewarded the local crowd with a goal and several expansive touches.
The Reds ended the friendly having recorded 23 shots across the 90 minutes, with 10 on target. The step-up in intensity will be a welcome one for Klopp, as his side face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup in just six days time, before returning to Premier League action on Boxing Day against Aston Villa.
Jurgen Klopp will have been pleased by the intensity shown by his side against AC Milan
Ben Doak shines in short cameo from the bench
Ben Doak was handed little over 10 minutes to impress, but lit up proceedings in the closing stages of the contest.
The 17-year-old winger produced a superb assist for Nunez’s second of the match after escaping down the right, laying the ball on a plate for the Uruguayan forward to finish.
Doak nearly crowned an electric cameo with a goal of his own, after breaking free once more. The Scottish winger fired wide of the target when well placed to cross again.