Liverpool secured their place in the Club World Cup final after narrowly overcoming Mexico’s Monterrey in the semi-final, leaving plenty to discuss.
Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds travelled to Qatar in the pursuit of becoming world champions and they left it late to secure their place in Saturday’s final against Flamengo.
Naby Keita had opened the scoring after finishing off a sumptuous move from Mohamed Salah before Monterrey quickly pegged the Reds back after capitalising on the lack of defensive cohesion from a set-piece.
The clash looked destined to move into extra-time before Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino combined to clinch a 2-1 win at the death and with it an opportunity to lift the Club World Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) and Matt Ladson (@mattladson) in Qatar are joined by David Comerford (@Dave_Comerford) to delve into the positives and negatives from the victory and discuss how the Reds should approach the final.
David: First and foremost, Alisson was outstanding. Like with Virgil van Dijk, the brilliance is bog-standard now but we shouldn’t lose sight of it. That fingertip save to deny them a tap-in at 1-1 was a match-defining moment.
Another positive is Keita’s good form. His movement for the first goal was so intelligent and he could have had a couple more after weaving through. There’s a really potent link-up emerging with Salah and he’s bringing another dimension to our midfield.
Finally, the winning goal was pretty special. You can see from the stills circulating on social media that our forwards instinctively gamble when Trent picks it up.
It was another sublime assist, and I think we were all relieved to avoid extra-time (why it doesn’t go straight to penalties I don’t know!).
Matt: Winning! Again!
After all the furore over this game/tournament/squad, losing at this stage would have been a nightmare – as would have been extra-time.
In terms of players, Naby Keita was the best outfield player for us, while Alisson was the man of the match for me with several crucial saves.
It was also good that several key players got either a rest or a part-rest, while squad players got playing time and another show of faith from the manager.
No new injuries was also good, so far…
Joanna: As Matt said, losing in the last four would not have been ideal to say the least!
But as we’ve been saying throughout a large part of the season, the Reds did not play well but they continued to find a way to win.
There was no forcing the situation or any panic within the team, they trust the process and their ability to create openings without straying from what got them there in the first place – something which the teams of yesteryear did not possess.
Like David and Matt, it is hard to look anywhere but at Keita and Alisson as the standouts – the former is growing in confidence week by week at just the perfect moment and Ali kept us in the contest and continues to prove why he is the world’s best.
It was a largely dull affair, but Firmino’s goal sent me straight into the air with a loud cheer or two – so apologies to the neighbours!
David: Given the number of changes, I think you can excuse our defensive frailty and occasional sloppiness going forward.
I get the feeling some of the present injuries are more serious than initially feared.
Even if Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren do return relatively soon, history suggests there’s no guarantee of them staying fit, and Gomez is of course injury-prone as well.
To avoid being forced to use makeshift centre-backs again as we did here with Jordan Henderson, it makes a lot of sense to do some business in January.
On a separate note, I can’t work Origi out. I thought he was poor last night, drawing plenty of groans from fans. I don’t know which games suit him or whether he should just be a ‘super-sub’.
Matt: On the pitch, Lallana again showed why he isn’t of the quality required, especially as a holding midfielder. He was caught in possession and slow far too often.
Inside the stadium was a strange atmosphere. The small section of Monterrey fans outsung the rest of the crowd by a distance. The rest seemed there just to see Salah.
The crowd was predominantly ‘Liverpool’ but at no point did it feel like a Liverpool match. I expect Saturday to have a vastly better atmosphere, there’s a lot of Flamengo fans here in Doha already and I know of plenty of Reds who are travelling here on Friday.
Worse though was the FIFA MC who attempted to create a manufactured atmosphere and constantly screamed ‘woah’ ‘let’s go’ ‘I’m so excited’ ‘this is amazing’ and other such declarations of faux-excitement.
Logistically, it seems there’s still a lot to learn about organising crowds here, with plenty of people being sent to entrances halfway around the stadium to the enter ridiculously long queues.
There were plenty of Metro stops near the stadium though and everything was well signposted.
Joanna: There were a few that floated through the game, Origi and Shaqiri were well off the pace and all around it felt like a pre-season outing.
It was nice to see us make a host of changes to keep players fresh and that, of course, was a key reason for the lack of fluidity but it felt as though there were too many passengers on the night.
I was dead excited that the BBC had obtained the rights for the tournament, but it was infuriating that the commentary was ahead of the picture – nothing worse than being told a save had been made and the player had yet to even taken aim at the goal!
And should Klopp opt for his strongest possible side in the final?
David: I think he should.
First of all, it’s a trophy – there would be little point going all the way to Qatar in December if we’re not going to take it seriously.
Second, our next opponents, Leicester, who went full strength against Everton last night, will be playing City at the same time so we don’t need to worry too much about fatigue.
And third, we might have to field a very strong team to beat Flamengo. They’re the best side in South America and from what I’m hearing they’re absolutely desperate to make history in the final. We obviously only scraped past Monterrey when we rested players.
So I’d start the big names, hoping that we could establish a healthy lead, slow the game down and bring some of them off in the second half.
Matt: Yes, 100 percent. Not even a debate for me and it won’t be for Klopp either.
There are four days between Saturday and Boxing Day, so that’s not even remotely in the equation.
It would be hugely beneficial if Van Dijk and Wijnaldum are available.
Joanna: Yes, we’re one game away being world champions!
Hard to think that Klopp would consider not sending out the best possible side he can – we’re in the final and as Matt said there is enough time between then and our next game.
Like many, I wanted the Club World Cup more than the League Cup and while I was of the view that avoiding injuries would be a key accomplishment in Qatar, the way the game panned out against Monterrey has me well and truly wanting another piece of silverware.
The rotation policy in recent weeks also ensures that we will not be overstretching our personnel. Van Dijk being available will be a boost in more ways than one for the final.