A make-shift Liverpool side produced a scrappy victory in the semi-final of the FIFA Club World Cup, dispatching Mexican side CF Monterrey 1-2 thanks to an injury-time Roberto Firmino winner.
Jurgen Klopp made five changes to the side that edged past Watford at the weekend. Andrew Robertson, Adam Lallana, Divock Origi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Naby Keita all returned to the starting line-up with Firmino, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Sadio Mane all dropping to the bench.
Gini Wijnaldum and Virgil van Dijk also missed out through an injury and an illness respectively, with captain Jordan Henderson being forced to play at centre back due to a high volume of absences for the Reds in that area.
Despite the notable absences and the number of players playing out of position Liverpool started the stronger of the two sides and took the lead in the 12th minute following an open ten minutes full of Red possession and pressure.
A quick ball into Salah saw the Egyptian stay strong against a physical Leonei Vangioni before playing a cheeky reverse ball in behind the Monterrey backline for Keita to run onto. The Guinean burst past the Monterrey centrebacks and expertly smashed the ball into the back of Marcelo Barovero net. 1-0.
Like what you see? Get it for free!
Get all of our content delivered straight to your inbox — completely free of charge.
Despite the impressive start and the early lead, the Reds couldn’t keep in front for long and Monterrey bit back in the 14th minute after the makeshift Liverpool defence struggled to clear a set-piece without Van Dijk’s aerial presence.
As a result, the ball found its way back into the Liverpool box and Dorlan Pabon was able to get strong shot on target. The Colombian’s attempt drew a brilliant save from Alisson, however, the Brazilian was only able to palm the effort into the path of the coiled Rogelio Funes Mori, twin brother of the former Everton defender, who pounced on the loose ball and equalised for the Mexicans. 1-1.
After conceding the equaliser the Reds continued applying pressure as they went in search of the goal that would put them back in the lead.
With this being said, Liverpool’s Mexican opponents continued to show their dangerous ability on the counter-attack as the Reds had to call on Alisson multiple times throughout the half to ensure they didn’t go into the half time break trailing.
As the minutes ticked on to the end of the half Liverpool, who had slumped into second gear, seemed to find a second wind as waves of red pressure pounded against the blue and white Monterrey shirts.
The Reds couldn’t find the breakthrough however and the teams went into the half time break level.
The start of the second half certainly entertained the fans in attendance as the game opened up with both sides attacking with intent. In fact, in these opening minutes it was Monterrey who looked closest to going ahead as Liverpool once again needed to rely on the goalkeeping skills of Alisson to bail them out as Pabon tested from range with a free-kick.
As the half continued, Liverpool got settled into their rhythm and similarly to in the first half, the Reds began to control possession and apply pressure as Keita again went close as he burst into the box but could only direct his effort straight at Barovero. Should have scored.
Shortly after Keita’s effort the Reds had the ball in the back of the net through Origi. Unfortunately, the Belgian was correctly judged to be offside and the score remained level.
With the score finely poised and Monterrey beginning to grow into the game and seriously threaten Alisson’s net, Klopp turned to the bench and introduced arguably his best player this season, Mane.
Mane’s inclusion gave the Monterrey defence an added threat to think about, however, it was Origi who had the best chance of the game as he produced a swing and a miss from point-blank range after James Milner produced a pinpoint low cross to the feet of the Belgian. It remained 1-1 in the 75th minute.
As the clock ticked on the game became more open and Klopp again turned to his bench this time bringing on Firmino as the Reds looked to avoid extra time and steal the win.
As if written in the stars Klopp’s substitution did exactly what he would have wanted as Firmino flicked the ball into the back of the net in the last minute of injury time.
Salah stayed strong and fought hard to keep possession of the ball before laying it off to Trent Alexander-Arnold. The right-back produced a signature delivery into the box, bypassing all the Monterrey bodies and curling into the path of Firmino who with a flick of his right booth knocked the ball past the helpless Barovero. 2-1.
The Reds held on and claimed the victory that sees them advance to Saturday’s final where they take on Brazilian side Flamengo.