In a whirlwind and exhilarating spectacle like the one we witnessed at Anfield on Wednesday night, it can be tough to stand out, especially when you don’t get yourself on the scoresheet. However, that’s just what governing midfielder Fabinho managed to do.
Back in the Champions League for the first time this season, Fabinho’s task wasn’t easy, sitting in front of and protecting a potentially vulnerable Liverpool defensive duo minus the impenetrable Virgil Van Dijk.
He was flanked in midfield by Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson who often pressed high to support the front three, leaving the sole responsibility of screening the defence and nullifying AC Milan’s dangerous attacks behind with Fabinho, but he fulfilled this role excellently.
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On the night, he made the highest number of interceptions and won the joint-highest number of tackles.
We see an example of his competence below, and how integral the same proved to be in terms of squashing Milan’s attempts to break out of Liverpool’s pressure.
Here, we see Keita and Henderson pushing higher to apply pressure with the front three as Milan try to play out. Fabinho holds the space in behind those two ready to pounce should the press be bypassed.
Milan manages to play around the Liverpool pressure and try to fire a ball into the feet of Alexis Saelemaekers in a dangerous position near the halfway line. This is where Fabinho comes alive.
He reads the threat and drives across to intercept the ball, regaining possession for Liverpool who can look to again apply pressure on the Milan backline.
The visitors struggled to adapt to this Liverpool pressure anchored by Fabinho, especially in the opening exchanges - they managed just three successful passes into Liverpool’s defensive third across the opening 30 minutes.
The Brazilian’s ability to competently govern the middle of the pitch on his own also gave license for Liverpool’s dangerous wing-backs to commit to attacks deep inside the Milan half, and we see here how the Reds have seven of their ten outfield players inside the attacking third.
Liverpool finished the game having attempted 22 shots, summoning plaudits for the performance of their key attacking players.
Yet a lot of the credit should go towards Fabinho who was integral in not only nullifying Milan’s threat but also giving the platform for others to cause defensive headaches for the visitors.