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Liverpool beats AC Milan before 66,000 fans in uptown Charlotte

Liverpool’s fate in the International Champions Cup had already been determined before the Reds played AC Milan at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

So the Reds’ rather pedestrian 2-0 victory over Milan before a crowd of 66,000 ultimately didn’t matter. They had already won their group after Greece’s Olympiacos beat Manchester City in a penalty-kick shootout. That result eliminated both teams from Group A contention before the kickoff in Charlotte.

Liverpool will face old rival Manchester United in Monday’s International Champions Cup final in Miami. United won its group after beating Real Madrid 3-1 Saturday before a sellout crowd of 110,000 in Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Liverpool immediately put pressure on Milan’s defense. The Reds’ starting front line, which featured youngsters on the wings in Raheem Sterling, 19; Jordon Ibe, 18; and 32-year-old Rickie Lambert in the middle, gave Milan all kinds of trouble through the first 15 minutes, but struggled getting off any kind of dangerous shot.

That changed in the 18th minute when midfielder Joe Allen intercepted a careless pass from out of the back by Milan’s Michael Essien. Allen bore in on Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati, but his 15-yard shot hit the left post. The rebound went to Sterling, whose shot was parried by Abbiati. But the ball rolled back to Allen, whose brisk strike finally beat Abbiati.

Liverpool had a chance to make it 2-0 10 minutes later when Sterling was brought down in the penalty box by Ignazio Abate, who disagreed vehemently with referee Dave Gantar’s call. But Abbiati’s dive to the left saved Lambert’s penalty kick.

Suso got Liverpool’s second goal in the 90th minute, taking a pass from the left side by Phillipe Coutinho and hitting a 20-yard shot past Milan goalkeeper Gabriel.

Milan’s best chance probably came in stoppage time, when Bryan Cristante ripped a long shot that Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet tipped over the cross bar.

Every Liverpool field player got into the game, although several starters weren’t in coach Brendan Rodgers’ first 11 on this night. But by midway through the second half, players such as English internationals Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson and Brazilian Phillipe Coutinho were on the field.

Milan coach Filippo Inzaghi did the same, bringing on several players in the second half, including Italian international striker Mario Ballotelli.

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