Spirit & resilience shine but “jaded” Reds looking “vulnerable” – Media on Monterrey 1-2 Liverpool

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The media praised Liverpool’s spirit in the 2-1 Club World Cup win over Monterrey but saw concerning signs in how injuries are taking their toll.

The Reds will have the chance to be officially crowned the world’s best team after snatching a last-gasp semi-final win over the Mexican side.

An exquisite finish from Roberto Firmino in stoppage time ensured Jurgen Klopp’s side progressed to Saturday’s final, after Rogelio Funes Mori cancelled out Naby Keita’s opener.

It sets up a final showdown against Brazilian outfit and Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo – in which Klopp’s team will strive to become the first ever Liverpool side to win this trophy.

Before attention turns to that decider, here is all the key analysis from the media on the semi-final victory.

 

Members of the media praised Liverpool for once again finding a way despite not hitting top form…

DOHA, QATAR - Wednesday, December 18, 2019: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring the second goal with team-mates during the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 Semi-Final match between CF Monterrey and Liverpool FC at the Khalifa Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Guardian’s Andy Hunter delivered a nice line on how nothing can currently derail the relentless red winning machine:

Different continent, different competition, same old Liverpool.

[…]

Jürgen Klopp’s men go to the end regardless of the prize at stake.

The Mirror’s John Cross lauded Liverpool’s never-say-die spirit to dig out yet another late winner, and rightly noted that it’s not luck, but rather opponents collapsing under the pressure faced from Klopp’s team:

That was surely what drove them on because Liverpool were a long way from their brilliant best but winners have resilience and Klopp has instilled by the bucketload.

They keep going until the bitter end and, as they have done on numerous occasions this season, they conjured up a winner from nowhere. It is not luck, it is far more than that.

Meanwhile, the Mail’s Martin Samuel reserved praise for Monterrey for taking Liverpool to the wire, and wrote how Premier League followers should be more respectful towards less-known clubs:

In the Premier League this season, only Manchester United have taken Liverpool deeper into a game. Monterrey may occupy a mediocre ninth place in the Primera Liga this season but that could be because they take the Club World Cup seriously, and it has been a distraction for them.

We do the global game enormous disrespect when we talk this competition down. There are some talented coaches, players and teams out there. Just because they don’t make it onto our television screens does not mean they don’t exist.

And Samuel followed that by explaining how Monterrey’s quality showed exactly why Klopp was right to utilise his first-team in this competition over the League Cup:

That is what was required to beat a supposedly mid-table club from Mexico. The strongest available XI from the strongest team in the Premier League.

[…]

So much for the Mickey Mouse cup, then. So much for a meaningless game that had been misguidedly prioritised over the quarter-finals of the weakest domestic cup competition.

 

Reporters were not too inspired with Liverpool’s display and feel much better will be needed to win the trophy…

ESPN’s Harry Kettle thought the Reds were too open defensively and was particularly surprised by the way the Reds were continually exposed on the flanks:

There were lazy gaps from a defensive standpoint and at times, it felt like they were trying to walk the ball into the net — not showing Monterrey enough respect in the process.

[…]

The humidity clearly left them a step or two behind their usual pace which is to be expected, but they were particularly weak down the flanks which tends to be one of their stronger areas.

The Mirror’s Alex Richards felt the attack suffered as a result of Xherdan Shaqiri playing an unsuited left-wing role and explained how the Swiss is better on his unnatural side when able to drift inside:

With Liverpool going 4-3-3 at the outset, Klopp elected to start Salah from the right, Divock Origi through the centre and start Xherdan Shaqiri from the left side. It’s something that, hopefully, he learned here not to go with again.

It really isn’t the Swiss player’s game operating from the left, going on the outside of a full-back onto his favoured left foot; playing on that side hinders his game and registers him pretty much ineffective.

Cross thought Klopp was fortunate his rotation gamble didn’t back-fire, assessing that the out-of-sync starting front three proved particularly problematic:

Liverpool, in contrast, were wasteful as their unfamiliar looking front three of Salah, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi never clicked and Klopp’s gamble of resting his weary, trophy-chasing big guns did not work.

Kettle thought Klopp’s selection was completely understandable and praised the German for his match-winning substitutions:

Given the circumstances it was understandable to see Jurgen Klopp take a bit of a risk with his starting XI.

You could certainly argue that the team looked lethargic at points and that could have come back on the manager, but he made the right changes to ultimately win them the game.

Meanwhile, Hunter warned that performance levels will have to be raised “considerably” in order for Liverpool to win the trophy:

Liverpool were disrupted by illness and injury but left in no doubt they will have to up their game considerably to claim the trophy for the first time in their history this weekend.

 

There was concern among journalists for how injuries are starting to take their toll on the Reds at the worst time…

DOHA, QATAR - Wednesday, December 18, 2019: Liverpool's Divock Origi (L) during the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 Semi-Final match between CF Monterrey and Liverpool FC at the Khalifa Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Melissa Reddy, of the Independent, assessed how Liverpool looked “jaded” as injuries begin to mount up:

Injuries are hitting at a crucial juncture for the Premier League leaders, who looked jaded as Monterrey crafted the better openings in the second half.

The Mail’s Dominic King explained how the game gave a worrying indication of how quickly the Reds could come unstuck if bad luck with injuries doesn’t change:

What this team provided, though, was a snapshot of the tightrope Liverpool are currently walking in terms of big injuries at the worst possible time.

Christmas had long been identified as the stage when there could be problems, given the travelling demands, all the competitions and the way the squad could be stretched physically. Here, then, was the evidence that showed you how quickly they could become vulnerable.

Discussing the current defensive crisis, Paul Gorst, of the Liverpool Echo, believes Klopp now must dip into the January market to sign a centre-back:

They certainly won’t want such a centre-back shortage when Premier League duties resume later this month.

[…]

This particular result is unlikely to have changed his [Klopp’s] mind, but would a proactive approach to this situation in the January transfer window really be so harmful?

King was one of several journalists to assess that the absence of Virgil van Dijk was particularly felt with the Reds losing the assuredness the No.4 provides:

The Netherlands captain is always there and his influence on the team is as huge as his frame.

[…]

If van Dijk excels, Liverpool do too. Without him, things are not quite the same. Klopp, then, has good reason to want to wrap him cotton wool.

Richards thought Joe Gomez struggled without Van Dijk’s leadership and felt the England defender need to provide a more authoritative figure as the senior centre-back in a makeshift back line:

With Van Dijk absent due to illness and skipper Henderson asked to slot into the heart of defence, the onus was on England defender Gomez to show leadership as the senior partner back there.

However, it was a difficult night for Gomez, up against the powerful, awkward Funes Mori and he was perhaps fortunate not to see red when booked for a rugby tackle on the Argentine.

 

Though not Liverpool’s best team performance, journalists singled out certain impressive individual displays…

Standard Sport’s David Lynch was full of praise for Alisson, applauding No.1 for his shot-stopping and also how he also brought composure to the makeshift defence:

All but one of Monterrey’s eight shots on target were repelled by Alisson, and even the exception was an unsavable tap-in that had only come about as a result of a fine stop a second prior.

Beyond that, some brilliant handling helped settle the nerves of a makeshift back four, while his distribution was typically excellent. He may be finding clean sheets hard to come by so far this season, but there is no doubting that Klopp’s No.1 remains one of the best in the business.

Richards was extremely impressed with Keita’s performance, which showed “glimpses of the Guinean’s best”:

Again there were glimpses of the Guinean’s best in Qatar, as he showed what he can bring to this side with his ability to carry the ball through midfield and produce smart touches in and around the opposition final third.

[…]

And his overall display showed that he is seizing the opportunities handed to him after his recent comeback from injury.

The Mail’s Ian Herbert loved Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s box-to-box display, and assessed that the No.15 is now “back to where he left off” before his injury:

More than a year and a half on, he’s back to where he left off, delivering the poise and precision which was abundantly missing in his team.

[…]

Oxlade-Chamberlain was genuinely box-to-box, shielding a makeshift defence which looked vulnerable at times, spraying passes from deep and driving forward with power and pace. No player offered more vertical movement. He played with his head up, had time, saw space.

Lynch reserved a word of praise for Jordan Henderson for doing a captain’s job in adequately deputising in an unfamiliar position:

But Henderson had never played as a centre-back in his professional career prior to this evening, and so his impressive performance took on extra significance.

The Reds’ No.14 was by no means perfect in his new role, but he didn’t shy away from a single challenge or attempt to leave the responsibility to his younger partner Joe Gomez. What more could you ask for from your captain?

Finally, the BBC’s Emma Sanders reflected on a “strange 24 hours” for the club, and praised how all involved have dealt with the tough situation of competing in two games, in two days, in two competitions across two continents:

There will probably not be a stranger week for Liverpool this season, having played two matches on two continents in the space of 24 hours.

[…]

It was an occasion like no other but Liverpool came through unscathed and can now look forward to the final before returning to England to take on title rivals Leicester City on Boxing Day.

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