Firmino winner sends Liverpool into Club World Cup final
Jurgen Klopp planned to give a number of regular Liverpool starters the day off, but the best laid plans go to waste. With Monterrey matching Liverpool in Qatar, Roberto Firmino was on hand to save Liverpool from extra time and penalties, scoring in the 91st minute to put Liverpool into the Club World Cup final via a 2-1 win over the Mexican club.
The Reds were was forced into a few changes and Jurgen Klopp made a few more on his own, most notably sitting Virgil van Dijk due to illness while resting Trent Alexander-Arnold, Firmino, and Sadio Mane, although they would all eventually be required. That left Jordan Henderson to deputize at center-back while James Milner took a spot at right-back. Xherdan Shaqiri took a spot along the top three, while Adam Lallana played in a defensive midfield role behind Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Reds still showed an attacking intent and got on the board early as Keita was filtered through the middle by crowd favorite Mohamed Salah, and the Guinea international finished expertly one-on-one past Marcelo Barovero for an 11th minute lead. Monterrey would not be deterred, however, and found an immediate response just three minutes later. The Mexican side caught the injury-riddled Liverpool defense ball-watching at the far post, with an initial shot by Jesus Gallardo saved by Allison, but the rebound fell to Rogelio Funes Mori alone at the back post for the equalizer.
Dorlan Pabon had a go on 26 minutes but forced a quality save from Alisson, and Monterrey came close again past the half-hour mark as Alisson just barely wrong-footed a counter-attack by getting his fingertips to a Pabon cross that just trickled behind a racing Funes Mori. Salah was bright up front to the delight of the Doha crowd, while Keita came close to a double just before halftime but was thwarted in his efforts to round the keeper after being released down the left edge of the six-yard box.
After the second-half restart, Liverpool thought it had the lead past the hour mark but Divock Origi’s strike was flagged for offside on a great trap by the Monterrey back line. Monterrey began to grab hold of the game, and Klopp responded by bringing Mane, Alexander-Arnold, and Firmino off the bench.
The latter was the man to grab the decisive touch. As Salah did hard work down the right edge of the box before being shut off, he tapped back to Alexander-Arnold who delivered a perfect ball into the box for Firmino. The Brazilian poked it past a wrong-footed Barovero and into the back of the net to send Liverpool through.
The Reds will play Brazilian club Flamengo in the championship game on Saturday, while Monterrey will take on Saudi side Al-Hilal.