A stoppage-time Roberto Firmino strike saw Liverpool beat Monterrey 2-1 on Wednesday, sealing a place in the Club World Cup final.
Liverpool 2-1 Monterrey
Club World Cup semi-final
Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar
December 18, 2019
Goals: Keita 12, Firmino 90+1′; Funes Mori 14′
Alisson Immovable for the Reds
If ever anyone ever doubted the world-class brilliance of Alisson, the last two games have shown why he is worth his weight in gold.
He was good against Watford on Saturday, but he even better in a tight affair with Monterrey, keeping Liverpool’s opponents at bay.
Alisson was forced into numerous important saves, from diving low down to prevent a top-in in the first half, to palming away a stinging free-kick after the break.
The Brazilian’s greatest strength is that he makes everything look so easy, when in fact his speed of feet and reaction times make it that way.
There were saves he made on Wednesday that others would either have been a full stretch for, or let drift into the back of the net.
If Alisson carries on this level of form over the next few years, Ray Clemence may be overtaken as Liverpool’s greatest-ever ‘keeper.
Keita’s Purple Patch Continues
Naby Keita‘s Liverpool career has been a little underwhelming so far, even though some of the negativity has been unjust.
The Guinean has had an injury-plagued time of things, but for one of the first times, he truly looks like he belongs in this Reds side.
Keita was a vibrant presence in Liverpool’s midfield against Monterrey and he opened the scoring after a perfectly-time third-man run and neat finish.
This was his third goal in as many matches – it took him 41 appearances to achieve the same feat first time round.
There was so much to admire about Keita’s play aside from his goal, though, from his off-the-ball work to his class in possession.
We are now starting to see something close to the world-class figure who arrived from RB Leipzig, which is a huge boost.
Gomez Unconvincing But Rotation Pays Off
Joe Gomez was, ignoring age, the senior figure at the heart of Liverpool’s defence, with Jordan Henderson used there in Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren‘s absence.
After an impressive display against Watford last weekend, though, Gomez was a shaky figure at the Khalifa International Stadium.
He committed several fouls, eventually finding himself booked, and he failed to exude the calm that existed so much in the early months of last season.
In fairness, Gomez deserves some slack because of the makeshift back-line Jurgen Klopp went with, but he is still not convincing on a consistent basis.
Speaking of Klopp, his rotation ended up paying dividends, even if the Reds never looked comfortable at the back.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was given most of the night off, while Van Dijk should return to the final after suffering from ‘illness’.
Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were also only used sparingly, keeping legs of key men fresh in this busy festive period.
Salah Shines in Doha
Mohamed Salah has earned the wrath of some supporters this season, having not always found his best form.
In the past few weeks he has started to look back to his most formidable, though, and that continued on Wednesday evening.
Not everything came off for forward, for whom most the crowd had come to see, but he caused Monterrey’s defenders all sorts of problems, backing into and twisting and turning them, not to mention outpacing them.
Salah’s pass for Keita’s pass was outrageous, threading a gap beautifully, and he also played a crucial role in Firmino’s last-gasp winner.
It is easy to forget that the Egyptian is still Liverpool’s joint-top goalscorer this season and he often takes time to find his top level.
The current signs suggest he is in for an explosive 2020.
Subs Make the Difference
Klopp’s starting lineups are becoming as unpredictable as a Ryan Babel final ball these days.
The Liverpool boss fielded a much-changed team from the weekend win over Watford, with Henderson and James Milner at the back, Adam Lallana in the No.6 role and Alex-Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi all starting.
It was, therefore, no great surprise that the Reds’ performance was disjointed, and Klopp needed his substitutes to save the day.
Alexander-Arnold and Firmino combined superbly for the winner, while Mane looked horribly dangerous whenever he got the ball.
In the past, Liverpool simply wouldn’t have had the options from the bench, likely losing the match or having to go to extra-time.
Substitutes are constantly saving the day this season, however, and it is no fluke.
This is what great squad depth does and Liverpool now have the Club World Cup final against Flamengo to look forward to on Saturday.