Flamengo 0-1 Liverpool: Roberto Firmino’s extra-time strike delivers first Club World Cup
Roberto Firmino struck in extra time to hand Liverpool a first Fifa Club World Cup triumph as Jurgen Klopp's side eventually ended the resistance of Brazilian champions Flamengo in Qatar.
Firmino, who scored a dramatic injury-time winner against Monterrey to send Liverpool into the final, produced a composed finish in the 99th minute as the Reds became the second English side to win the tournament, after Manchester United in 2008.
In a dramatic conclusion to normal time, Liverpool had seen an injury-time penalty decision overturned after Sadio Mane went down under a challenge from Rafinha, with referee Abdulrahman Al Jassim reversing his initial verdict after checking the pitchside monitor following a consultation with the video assistant referee.
Brazil forward Firmino squandered the opportunity to put Liverpool ahead inside the opening minute at Khalifa International Stadium, blazing over the bar before Naby Keita and Trent Alexander-Arnold also spurned early chances as the Premier League leaders made a blistering start.
Firmino agonisingly hit the post and Mohamed Salah shot narrowly wide shortly after half-time, but Flamengo responded well to early pressure in both halves and posed Liverpool problems – striker Gabriel Barbosa's attempted bicycle-kick typifying the Brazilian side's steadily growing confidence.
Liverpool suffered an injury blow as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain appeared to fall awkwardly on his ankle, and with the prospect of extra time approaching Jordan Henderson's powerful, curled strike from the edge of the box was superbly tipped over by Flamengo goalkeeper Diego Alves.
Firmino's breakthrough in the first half of extra time delivered huge relief for Klopp's side, and while Salah was denied by Alves soon after, the Premier League side were able to see out the second period unharmed.
Mexican side Monterrey earlier defeated Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw to claim third place.
Klopp's squad gamble pays off
Manager Klopp said he wanted to change perceptions of the Club World Cup in Europe as his Liverpool side prepared to face a Flamengo squad who had been given “a clear order to win it and come back home as heroes”.
Having elected to focus on the Club World Cup, Liverpool fielded their youngest ever side as they exited the Carabao Cup on Tuesday in a 5-0 defeat by Aston Villa. Just 24 hours later, the Reds were busy securing their first appearance in a Club World Cup final since losing to Brazilian side Sao Paulo in 2005, eventually overcoming Monterrey 2-1 courtesy of Firmino's dramatic injury-time winner on Wednesday.
Despite taking his senior players, Klopp was forced to name a makeshift side against Monterrey due to injuries and illness, but he welcomed back defensive rock Virgil van Dijk, along with Alexander-Arnold, Firmino and Mane against Flamengo.
And how he needed his strongest side to navigate this difficult contest, in which it increasingly appeared it may not turn out to be Liverpool's afternoon. After failing to capitalise on an excellent start, Liverpool came under pressure as tricky winger Bruno Henrique threatened down the right and Barbosa troubled the defence.
But Klopp's side dug deep, despite the frustration of Henderson's dismissed penalty appeal and Mane's overturned spot-kick at the death, and earned their reward as Firmino once again had the crucial say.
That 99th-minute winner vindicated Klopp's decision to pursue a first Club World Cup triumph over progress in the Carabao Cup, while delivering an entertaining final sure to have grabbed attention at home.
More to follow.
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