Liverpool are finally the champions of the world and the Reds owe it to Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian forward struck another crucial winner to break the hearts of his countrymen as Liverpool edged past South American champions Flamengo 1-0 in the final to clinch the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar at the Khalifa International Stadium Saturday.
Firmino, who had come in as substitute to stroke home a stoppage time winner in the semi-finals against Monterrey on Wednesday, was the hero for Liverpool again. With the game ending goalless after 90 minutes and going into extra time, Firmino broke the deadlock in the 99th minute after a classic Liverpool counter set it up for the forward.
Captain Jordan Henderson found Sadio Mane with a long ball, with the Senegalese then drawing the Flamengo goalkeeper Diego Alves forward before slipping the ball to Firmino, who then cleverly slowed things down and smashed into the net.
Liverpool's Alisson lifts the trophy as they celebrate after winning the Club World Cup
Liverpool's Jordan Henderson and teammates celebrate
Liverpool's Naby Keita celebrates with the trophy and teammates
Flamengo did get a couple of chances to take the final to penalties, with Lincoln getting the best one of the night in the final seconds. But the substitute blazed it over as the Liverpool defence stood firm to seal a historic maiden title.
This was after high drama in the stoppage time of regulation time, when Liverpool were awarded a penalty by Qatari referee Abdulrahman al-Jassim for a foul on Mane by Flamengo full-back Rafinha.
Flamengo players protested furiously with al-Jassim, who then had a long look at the pitch-side monitor in a VAR review before overturning his decision. The replays showed Rafinha had clipped Mane just outside the box as the Liverpool midfielder was poised to shoot. Flamengo and Rafinha heaved a sigh of relief, with the defender’s yellow card also rescinded by the referee. Flamengo, however, ran out of legs in the extra time as Liverpool dug deep to come out triumphant.
Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring their goal
Liverpool's Joe Gomez in action with Flamengo's Bruno Henrique
Flamengo's Pablo Mari in action with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah
Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold in action with Flamengo's Bruno Henrique
It was also sweet revenge for Liverpool, who had lost to Flamengo in the 1981 Intercontinental Cup final, a precursor to the current tournament. Liverpool had also gone down to another Brazilian side, Sao Paulo, 0-1 in the final in 2005 in Yokohama, Japan.
Victory in Doha meant Jurgen Klopp’s men became the second English side after Manchester United in 2008 to win the global club competition.
Captain Henderson, who lifted the trophy as Jamie Webster’s Allez Allez Allez rang out at the Khalifa, said the mental strength of the side pulled them the through.
"It was an interesting game. I am sure it was interesting to watch but we kept going, good performance and mentality shined through. We could have scored a couple more. Overall delighted with the result and performance in difficult conditions,” Henderson said.
"We have found a way for a long time now. Some late goals, we just want to keep going, keep improving. Keep working hard and putting in performances like that," he added
While Liverpool were clearly the better side on the night, they lacked the killer punch, wasting plenty of scoring opportunities. But that has been the story of Klopp and his men this season, who have made a habit of winning from difficult situations.
However, it had looked like Liverpool won’t take it till the end when they started with a frenetic pace in the first ten minutes. Forty seconds into the game, Liverpool almost had a dream start. With Flamengo still seemingly in their warm ups, Firmino was sent through but the Brazilian’s shot just looped over the bar.
Liverpool were all over Flamengo with crowd favourite Mohamed Salah setting up a great chance for Naby Keita, who could only strike it over. Trent Alexander-Arnold too had a pop at the goal as the Reds looked well in control before Flamengo settled into the game.
Flamengo came back strongly though, with coach Jorge Jesus’ tactic to stop his full-backs getting out of the midfield stopping Liverpool. In fact the Copa Libertadores champions dominated possession as Bruno Henrique and Gabrie Barbosa made life difficult for the Liverpool defence, who welcomed back Virgil van Dijk.
Joe Gomez had to make a brilliant slide-in tackle to deny Pablo Mari, who was played in by Henrique, for the Brazilians’ best chance of the first half. With Klopp visibly frustrated on the touchline, Liverpool upped the ante in the second half.
But it played similarly to the first half as the Reds missed couple of glorious chances. Firmino though was unlucky to have seen his one-bounce shot in the 47th minute ricochet off the post and go out of play. Two minutes later, Trent Alexander-Arnold cut a ball back to Mohamed Salah, but the Egyptian shot it wide of the post. At the other end, Barbosa fired at the Liverpool goal with Alisson doing well to make a save
Meanwhile, Firmino had another chance but the unmarked Brazilian failed to control the ball as Alves claimed it easily. By then it was an end-to-end contest as Barbosa scuffed a left footer after played through by Henrique.
Salah, who walked away with Golden Ball award for best player of tournament, thought he had put Liverpool one-nil up when he buried the ball into the net in the 76th minute, but the off side flag was already up. Flamengo also survived another scare when Henderson’s shot from outside the box was tipped over by Alves.
The penalty drama in the end added another twist to the final, before Firmino made sure Liverpool kept their date with destiny.
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