Joe Gomez may have helped AC Milan score two goals on his Liverpool return after long injury lay-off… but an impressive second-half display shows it won’t be too long until he makes his England return
- Joe Gomez made his first Liverpool start against AC Milan after an injury lay-off
- The Reds and England player suffered a serious knee injury in November 2020
- Gomez kept Milan’s attackers onside for both the Italian side’s first-half goals
- But the centre-back recovered to help his side to a 3-2 victory at Anfield
- Wednesday night’s display shows it is not too long until his England return
There was barely a minute on the clock when Joe Gomez collected Joel Matip’s square ball before laying a five yard pass into Naby Keita.
It was hardly worthy of note. But make no mistake, it would have meant the world to Gomez. The road has been arduous and painstaking, yet it would have been worth it for that moment alone – and, of course, celebrating Jordan Henderson’s thunderous winner.
The serious knee injury Gomez suffered whilst playing a routine pass, with no-one near him, in training at St George’s Park as England prepared for a friendly against the Republic of Ireland 308 days ago wrecked his 2020-21 campaign.
Joe Gomez (right) made his long-awaited return from injury for Liverpool against AC Milan
Gomez was playing in his first game back since November 2020 following a serious knee injury
In truth, it probably destroyed Liverpool’s season, too. Having already lost Virgil van Dijk for the season, the gruesome injury to Gomez ripped the heart out of the Merseysiders’ title winning defence.
Gomez split part of his rehabilitation period between Portugal and London, readying body and mind for his comeback.
But he’d swap the blazing Algarve sun for the roar of the Kop on a Champions League night everyday of the week. Yet – and not that Gomez would have needed any reminding – football has a knack of catching you off guard.
Gomez’s first start since November 8, 2020 – a 1-1 draw against eventual champions Manchester City – was going swimmingly.
Gomez (right) barely put a foot wrong as Liverpool started well, but things changed quickly
Liverpool were coasting against AC Milan. While one English central defender, Fikayo Tomori, was overworked in trying to stem a relentless tide of early Liverpool pressure; another was cruising through his long-awaited return.
One-up heading into half-time, Gomez hadn’t put a foot out of place. It must have felt good to be back.
But when the half-time whistle eventually blew, Liverpool were 2-1 behind – AC Milan scoring twice in 110 seconds at the end of the first-half. Both times, Gomez had marginally played Milan’s attackers onside.
Gomez played Ante Rebic onside twice as Milan took a 2-1 lead into half-time at Anfield
It was cruel on the 24-year-old. But football matches are won and lost on fine margins; here Gomez was provided the harshest of reminders.
Nevertheless, Gomez will be stronger for the experience; it is only normal the central defender would need a level fine tuning after 10 months out.
His impressive second half performance suggests there isn’t too much fine tuning that needs to be done. Thankfully, in Jurgen Klopp, Gomez has a manager who will afford him time to get fully up to speed.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds recovered to make it 3-2, with Gomez eyeing up an England return soon
Likewise, England manager Gareth Southgate, as tempting as it may be, is likely to resist the urge of recalling his fit-again defender.
That’s not to say Gomez should be worried about his international future; Southgate has kept in regular contact with the centre-half in recent months.
It is, though, surely a matter of time before Gomez is back in an England shirt. For now, Gomez will just be grateful to be playing in the red of Liverpool.