Of Liverpool’s famous front three only Mohamed Salah started the Club World Cup semi-final at the Khalifa International Stadium. Come the final five minutes though, all three were deployed as the Reds desperately chased a winner with their clash with Monterrey level at 1-1.
Summoning the extra firepower of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino ultimately paid off though with the latter snatching the decisive goal in stoppage time, latching on to a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross.
The Brazilian’s timely strike spared his side a further 30 minutes of extra-time which could potentially have been followed by penalties.
Naby Keita’s opener 11 minutes into proceedings from a fine Salah reverse pass seemed to lay the foundation for a comfortable Liverpool victory but Monterrey’s response was instant as Rogelio Funes Mori turned in the rebound moments later after Alisson saved Jesus Gallardo’s left-footed volley.
The Mexican outfit pushed Liverpool the whole way, registering 16 shots to the Merseysiders’ 12 despite having only 31 per cent of possession.
Antonio Mohamed’s side had every right to feel aggrieved by the result which will see Liverpool take on Brazilian champions Flamengo in the final on Saturday after they square off with Al Hilal for third place.
MO MAKES IT HAPPEN
Salah was always going to draw the bulk of the attention from Monterrey’s defenders and it’s no surprise that he was afforded little space to work with. Any time he did get on the ball was largely of his own conjuring owing to quick feet and changes in direction.
He may have lined up on the right flank but the Egyptian predominantly popped up centrally, in that inside right channel to cause problems for the Mexican team’s defence.
It was evident throughout the game that Salah would struggle to get a shot away and indeed failed to do so. However, he had the quality to pick out his team-mates and that’s where he hurt Monterrey.
A sublime throughball for Keita set up the opener beautifully before he nearly assisted James Milner as well with a clever back-heel that the Englishman was denied from by Marcelo Barovero.
Even for the winning goal it was Salah who created the initial opening with his run and held the ball up well despite being hounded by two defenders before laying it off for Alexander-Arnold to execute the cross for Firmino.
MONTERREY MOUNT A CHALLENGE
Even with Jurgen Klopp shuffling his pack this always looked like a mismatch on paper. However, Monterrey have been on a stunning run of form and came into this encounter unbeaten in any competition since October – a 13-match streak.
As such, they proved to be formidable opponents and despite conceding an early goal, showed great character to draw level almost immediately.
But Funes Mori’s strike on the rebound was only one of several questions Los Rayados asked of a much-changed Liverpool defence.
In the 27th minute, they caught their illustrious opponents on the break with Dorlan Pabon storming down the right as Andy Robertson vacated his post. A venomous strike from the skipper though was saved smartly by Alisson.
Pabon threatened again 10 minutes later, exploiting the space down that right side but the Liverpool custodian was able to get his finger tips to his low cross, diverting it away from Funes Mori’s path at the back post.
The 31-year-old Colombian resumed his role as danger man early in the second half when his well-struck free-kick drew another fine save from Alisson. Pabon then fired an effort from inside the area wide in the 66th minute after Funes Mori laid it off for him.
Rogelio Funes Mori, twin of former Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori, equalises against Liverpool in the Club World Cup. pic.twitter.com/nZAQu4qIu9— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) December 18, 2019
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