Report as Rogelio Funes Mori cancels out Naby Keita's early opener before Roberto Firmino's late winner
Thursday 19 December 2019 00:04, UK
Roberto Firmino's last-minute winner put under-par Liverpool into the Club World Cup final after a 2-1 victory over Monterrey in Doha.
The Brazilian substitute had only been on for six minutes when he sidefooted Trent Alexander-Arnold's wonderful low cross in at the near post to spare Liverpool's blushes against the Concacaf Champions League winners, who were excellent throughout.
It looked like it may be a routine night for Liverpool when Naby Keita capitalised on their early dominance to fire them in front from Mohamed Salah's excellent reverse pass, but within two minutes, Rogelio Funes Mori - brother of former Everton defender Ramiro - turned in the rebound from a free-kick to level.
From then the Mexican side had the better of the chances and forced Alisson into a number of saves, while Keita spurned Liverpool's best chance to retake the lead when he beat two challenges before firing straight at Marcelo Barovero.
But the Reds would have the last laugh to set up a Club World Cup final clash with Flamengo on Saturday, at 5.30pm, thanks to Firmino's sharp late finish.
Fielding a makeshift backline including veteran utility man James Milner and Jordan Henderson, a late replacement after Virgil Van Dijk was ruled out with illness, Liverpool dominated possession from the off in Doha in front of a near-capacity crowd including England manager Gareth Southgate and former captain David Beckham.
Their play lacked the zip and guile we have come to expect from the Reds but from their first moment of true quality, they opened up Monterrey and scored the opener, as Salah's nice reverse ball with his back to goal set Keita through, and he finished in style for his third goal in as many games.
If that was meant to settle Liverpool, Monterrey's instant response derailed that notion when Funes Mori found himself well-positioned to turn home the rebound when Dorlan Pabon's shot was saved by Alisson.
From then Liverpool struggled to break down the Mexican side and found themselves caught out on the counter, especially down their left, from where Pabon forced Alisson into a low save with a strong first-time effort from the angle, and nearly found Funes Mori unmarked at the far post with a cross-cum-shot Alisson palmed away later in the half.
Liverpool made five changes from their weekend win over Watford, including Virgil Van Dijk, who missed out with illness.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were all rested on the bench, while Giorginio Wijnaldum was another injury absentee.
The tide barely turned after half-time with Alisson forced into another smart save from a Pabon free-kick, while Keita should have put his side back in front with a rare clear sight of goal after shaking off two challenges, but he fired straight at Barovero after that good work.
Pabon spurned another chance for an increasingly impressive Monterrey midway through the second half after a long spell of pressure inside the Liverpool area, but the next real chance of note would be reserved for substitute Firmino in injury time.
Salah recycled the ball after holding off challenges from Jesus Gallardo and the impressive Leonel Vangioni and finding Alexander-Arnold, who whipped the perfect ball into the six-yard box which Firmino turned home first time.
That goal put Liverpool into their third Club World Cup final where they will face Flamengo, the same side who beat them in the 1981 competition, in its former guise as the Intercontinental Cup.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: "I was afraid of extra time, to be honest! I was more than happy when Bobby scored that goal. We had to do a few changes as we had no other options. We left players out so we could have the opportunity if the game wasn't decided. That Bobby scored was just wonderful.
"It wasn't possible for it not to be won in not a hard way. We have seen teams try everything to be successful. They fought really hard, we had problems before the game. We knew we'd have them in the game too.
"Why should we think European football stands over all? But you can't judge a team from one game. Monterrey had good players. We had a really new line-up and were dominant in a lot of moments."
Monterrey boss Antonio Mohamad: "For me, there was a red card especially the first foul and the second. So I talked to the referee, maybe the Liverpool shirt has more weight therefore the Liverpool player (Gomez) wasn't sent off."