Liverpool’s foray to Qatar eventually bore fruit, with an extra time victory secured by way of an outstanding Roberto Firmino strike.
The FIFA Club World Cup final saw Liverpool come up against 2019 Copa Libertadores victors Flamengo. The Reds narrowly overcame CF Monterrey en-route to the final, while the Brazilians defeated Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal.
Liverpool started the game very brightly, almost scoring after 40 seconds. A quick ball over the top found Roberto Firmino, whose shot went just over the bar. Another ball over the top after five minutes eventually found its way to Naby Keïta — Liverpool’s No.8 fired over the bar, but clearly this was a tactic the Reds intended to use all game to stretch the Flamengo defence.
Flamengo started to grow into the game after a shaky start, with Liverpool being opened up by a one-two down the left, and only a Andy Robertson interception prevented the ball from reaching Gabriel Barbosa and Éverton Ribeiro.
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Trent Alexander-Arnold was routinely tested by the lightning quick Bruno Henrique, and as the first-half progressed the Liverpool midfield needed to offer the full-back more protection. A spell of Flamengo possession didn’t yield too many clear-cut chances, and Liverpool were guilty of being wasteful on the occasions where they did try to break. One particular effort from Mohamed Salah conspired only to find Filipe Luís, which infuriated Jürgen Klopp.
Just before the end of the first period Barbosa was set away by a searching pass, but Alisson Becker was on hand to sweep away convincingly.
The second half began as the first, with Firmino almost scoring. An excellent pass from Jordan Henderson found the Brazilian, who dazzingly lobbed the Flamengo defender. His slightly scuffed effort agonisingly hit the post, arresting Firmino’s glee as the striker wheeled off in celebration.
Salah then hits a first-time shot just past the post from an excellent Alexander-Arnold cross, with sections of the stadium believing the net has rippled. Flamengo then began exerting their authority on the half, creating two excellent chances in quick succession.
Barbosa’s first drive was expertly saved by Alisson, who blotted his copybook slightly by allowing Barbosa to challenge his clearance. Liverpool escaped but Flamengo were beginning to show their quality. Robertson’s shot then landed at an offside Firmino’s feet, but the Brazilian could only pass the ball to the keeper having not expected the ball.
Barbosa then unleashes an athletic bicycle kick, which although adventurous, didn’t overly trouble Alisson. Until this point neither side had made any substitutions, but an injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain meant that Adam Lallana was summoned after 74 minutes to replace the Englishman. The injury initially looked terrible, but fans will have been relieved to see the Ox hobble off rather than have to be stretchered from the field.
The game had slowed slightly as 15 minutes of regular time remained, but a Mané break upped the urgency. His pull back just eluded Salah, but the overall play led to Liverpool getting their first corner of the game after 78 minutes. That corner came to little, but Liverpool had returned to the front foot with ten minutes to play.
Henderson forced an incredible save from Flamengo keeper Alves, with the Liverpool captain using the defender to bend an incredible effort toward the cramp-afflicted goalkeeper. The Reds’ skipper could scarcely believe his misfortune, having done everything right.
The game appeared for all intents and purposes to be petering out to extra time, but Mané thought he had won a penalty for Liverpool after a Rafinha foul. However, a prolonged VAR check queried whether the foul had taken place outside the box. After consulting the on-pitch monitor the decision was made that the foul was committed outside the box, much to the bemusement of Mané. The referee actually decided to not award the foul whatsoever, despite appearances that a free-kick should have been awarded.
The game then went to extra-time without incident, with both sides looking exhausted from their efforts. The first period of extra-time finally saw Liverpool break the deadlock, with an excellent pass from Henderson setting Mané away. The Senegalese selflessly found Firmino, who showed incredible composure to disarm the Flamengo goalkeeper before dispatching the strike.
The complexion of the game changed hugely after that, with Flamengo knowing that they had to score to remain in the tie. Liverpool, for their part, sent on James Milner to try to maintain control. The first period ended with a smart Alves save from a Salah strike towards the far corner.
The second period began with Divock Origi coming on for hero Firmino. Barbosa struck a wild shot that almost troubled Allison, as Flamengo became ever more desperate for an equaliser. Liverpool also had their chances, namely an Alexander-Arnold free kick that Alves had to be wise to.
In these types of games, there is always the chance. In this case substitute Lincoln fluffed his lines for Flamengo, with an uncharacteristically slack Virgil Van Dijk allowing the chance to be created. After two minutes of added time, the Liverpool won the World Club Cup for the first time.