Liverpool progress to the final of the Club World Cup after a far from convincing 2-1 win over Monterrey. The Reds left it late once again, but Roberto Firmino’s injury-time goal was enough to clinch the victory following Naby Keita’s opener and Funes Mori’s leveller. The team selected to start the game was unorthodox, to say the least, which showed in the performance. It was always going to be difficult with so many out injured or rested, all that mattered was the win.
Alisson had yet another very impressive game in goal. Virtually everything that was thrown any him he dealt with superbly, with the Monterrey goal proving one step too far as he saved the initial effort, but could do little about the rebound. He makes it all look so easy. Where other goalkeepers would be beaten or struggle immensely to keep out a strike, Alisson will already be across and appear completely untested – that is a sign of a truly world-class goalkeeper.
There were some eyebrow-raising appearances on the team sheet in defence. With Trent Alexander-Arnold left on the bench and Virgil van Dijk ill, James Milner started at right-back, while Jordan Henderson had to fill in at centre-back. Joe Gomez and Andy Robertson occupied the other two spots in the back four. It was an understandably awkward performance but not entirely awful. They could have done far better on the goal, and Monterrey got into a few dangerous positions that they would likely not have had the first-choice defence played. You can’t be too critical, though, with two midfielders playing back there, along with a pretty makeshift midfield in front of them.
Onto the midfield and Adam Lallana started deepest, with Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of him. This was a problem. I feel bad for asking it because it’s far from his preferred role, but to be honest I think it wherever he plays: what is the point in Lallana? Especially when playing the 6; he can’t defend, doesn’t make good decisions on the ball, is really slow in every way and offers nothing going forward. Anyway, as I said, this wasn’t his preferred role so I’ll cut him a bit of slack. Naby Keita was good going forward in the first half, getting himself into dangerous positions and scoring yet another goal. Second half he wasn’t as influential, although he did go close to getting himself a second after a brilliant jinking run past 2 or 3 Monterrey players. It certainly wasn’t the Ox’s night, though, as he struggled to have any impact on the game at all.
Upfront, Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi and Mo Salah started the game. Both Shaqiri and Origi had rather poor games. Shaqiri had a performance similar to that of which he had against Watford, except when he did get the ball he didn’t look as dangerous as he did on the weekend. He was on the periphery for the majority of the match and therefore had very little influence. Origi saw more of the ball but his touch and finishing let him down almost every time. He squandered a golden opportunity with around 15 minutes to go in a similar fashion to the one that Salah turned in versus Watford. This time, however, no one could divert his wayward shot goalwards. Salah was by far the most impressive of the starting front 3 and set up Naby Keita’s goal with an incredible reverse pass that no one saw coming. Although he didn’t get himself a goal, he always looked the most likely to either score or create a chance for the vast majority of the game. With the score locked at 1-1 late on, Klopp had no choice but to use his bench which saw Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold enter the field of play. The latter two combined to get the winner after some brilliant work again from Salah. He managed to keep hold of the ball when it looked for so long like he should have had it taken off him. The Egyptian then managed to find Trent with a pass who delivered an exquisite cross which picked out Firmino who tapped in from close range. I’m sure Jurgen would have preferred to leave the big guns on the bench, however, when he called upon them, they did the business.
As for Man of the Match, for me, it has to go to Alisson Becker. Without him, we almost certainly would have been heading into a horrific 3rd place playoff game instead of the final. As it is though, we have a great chance at our second trophy already this season when we face Flamengo on the coming weekend.