Firmino seals Liverpool's maiden Club World Cup

A stunning goal from Roberto Firminho in the first half of extra-time helped Liverpool secure a 1-0 win against Flamengo to win its maiden Club World Cup.

Liverpool players celebrate winning the Club World Cup.   -  Getty Images

Liverpool’s date with destiny had a happy ending as the English side added the world title to its growing honours list after winning a dramatic FIFA Club World Cup final against an evenly matched Flamengo at the cheerful Khalifa International Stadium.

After 90-long minutes of a see-saw battle between two teams sure of their sporting philosophies, it was Brazilian Roberto Firmino who broke the resolve of his countrymen, scoring the solitary goal a minute away from the 100th-minute mark. It was his fellow Brazilian Alisson Becker who had done the initial hard work to keep the European champion alive in the contest with some timely saves, thwarting every move of Jorge Jesus’ side.

READ: Liverpool 1-0 Flamengo, as it happened

After finally winning the trophy that had eluded the club in 1981, ‘84 and 2005, Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, struggled to voice his thoughts on another magical night, a sight which has become common at the club since his arrival at Anfield. “It was an incredible performance in an incredible game against a great opponent. I saw many sensational performances and the atmosphere was great. We deserved to win tonight as we were the better side, the dominant team,” he said. “It has been a wonderful night for the club. The boys are showing the desire to win game after game. Winning it for the first time for this wonderful club feels absolutely sensational and it can’t get any better.”

Despite the late heartbreak, Flamengo didn’t disappoint its fanatic fans – the 15000-strong Brazilian contingent often dinned the strong native Liverpool fan base with their loud and boisterous support for their boys. It was a festive atmosphere at the ground, worthy of this momentous final, showing the world that World Cup 2022 will have no shortage of football frenzy when the tiny Gulf state finally hosts the quadrennial show.

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Roberto Firmino's crucial opener in extra time helped Liverpool seal a hard-fought 1-0 win against Flamengo in the Club World Cup final.   -  AFP

Jesus, who lost only his fourth game as the Flamengo manager, was rightly proud of the performances of his wards. “We were equal against Liverpool, the strongest club in Europe. For the first 95 minutes we controlled the match, but the goal surprised us. Football is about winning and losing, and we tried to attack and press, but ultimately Liverpool deserved the title because they scored.”

With the recovered Virgil van Djik re-commanding his position at the heart of the defence, Liverpool started strongly when the Dutchman essayed a long ball over the high defensive line of the Brazilians. Firmino, however, fluffed the chance even as he faced little threat from the sole backtracking Flamengo defender. Mohamed Salah, the darling of the locals, too, got into the action as he teed it to Naby Keita inside the box, but this chance was also squandered.

Riding off the initial Liverpool surge, Flamengo soon found its footing in the game offering the English giant its own version of counter press as Bruno Henrique, easily the best man on the pitch for the night, used his strength and speed to constantly harangue the Liverpool defence from the left. With skipper Everton Riberio and Gabriel Barbosa joining play with the battle-ready Henrique, the Copa Libertadores winner slowly wrested control of the midfield, ending the first half with a healthier possession count. The goal, though, never came its way.

Liverpool started the second session in almost similar fashion to the first as Jordan Henderson found Firmino, behind the rival defence, with a chipped pass. The Brazilian, this time, magnificently controlled the ball – flicking it over Rodrigo Caio -- to unleash a volley on his second touch, but the ball hit the post before tantalisingly bouncing across the goal, out of harm's way.

Alisson was soon coming to Liverpool’s rescue as he dealt well with an effort from Gabriel in the 53rd minute before diving in to deny him again around the 70th minute as the goal-poacher tried his luck with an overhead shot. Qatari referee Abdulrahman Al Jassim, who had already earned the displeasure of the partisan crowd for booking Salah in the 81st minute, had another moment of nervousness as he consulted long with VAR to disallow a Liverpool penalty in the first minute of stoppage time.

Flamengo, unfortunately, failed to capitalise on the reprieve as Firmino finally had his goal with Henderson making the most of a fortuitous rebound to play a long ball to Sadio Mane who ran from left to right before running it on to a sprinting Firmino, who rounded off a defender and goalkeeper Diego Alves to put Liverpool in blessed land.

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