DOHA, European champions Liverpool showed how winning has become a habit for them with a battling performance at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday.
Roberto Firmino scored the winner in the 99th minute of a pulsating match in which Flamengo showed that they had absolutely no regard for reputations.
It was Liverpool’s first Club World Cup title and it was also a revenge of sorts for the Reds who had lost to Flamengo in the Intercontinental Cup final in 1981.
With FIFA chief Gianni Infantino and HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani watching, Liverpool started off in their usual high octane style and in the very first minute, Trent Alexander Arnold, found Firmino with a lovely pass only for the Brazilian to uncharacteristically sky his shot.
Liverpool were all over their rivals in the opening period as Sadio Mane missed a chance, a sitter by his standards, failing to hit the target after Salah’s layoff.
A few minutes later Alexander Arnold’s shott just whizzed past the far upright as Liverpool displayed the dazzling array of weapons in their armoury.
After surviving the initial onslaught Flamengo started to pass the ball around with confidence.
Bruno Henrique was Flamengo’s sharpest player and the left-winger kept Virgil van Dijk and his fellow defenders constantly on their toes with his close control, pace and bending runs into space to beat the offside track.
Henrique got the better of Alexander Arnold, one of the best right-backs in the Premier League, on more than one occasion and once it needed a last-ditch tackle from Joseph Gomez to stop him from taking a shot at Alisson’s goal.
Midfielder Willian Arao also was at the top of his game for Flamengo covering each and every strand of grass on the pitch as he battled to deny Liverpool the advantage in the midfield.
Liverpool started the second half just as they did in the first, in whirlwind fashion, and in the 46th minute, Firmino came even closer to finding the opener.
Liverpool’s Brazilian star expertly latched on to pass from Henderson and nonchalantly flicked the ball over an approaching Pablo Mari but his shot hit the upright and rolled across the goal line.
Just four minutes later Salah spurned another chance hitting Alexander Arnold’s cross wide of the target.
Then it was Flamengo’s turn to attack and Gabriel Barbosa drew a fine save from Alisson, the first of the match, with an angular shot.
After the initial flurry of chances at both ends, the game slowed down a bit but Flamengo were giving Liverpool constant reminders that they are capable of producing moments of Brazilian magic.
One such occasion saw Barbosa connecting Henrique’s cross with an acrobatic back volley which nearly caught Alisson by surprise around the hour mark.
Salah managed to put the ball in the Liverpool net in the 76th minute but was pulled off for offside. A couple of minutes later he had another chance but this time the Egyptian failed to connect Andy Robertson’s cross from left.
He was then shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on substitute Vitinho.
Liverpool were threatening to deal a sucker punch as Jordan Henderson saw his shot tipped over the bar by Diego Alves.
And it seemed they had got one when Abdulrahman Al Jassim awarded them a penalty after Rafinha appeared to have tripped Sadio Mane who was clear on goal, but the Qatari referee reversed his decision after VAR check.
With both teams failing to break the deadlock, the match moved into extra time where Vitinho showed his skills to put Liverpool under pressure.
But finally, in the 99th minute, the goal Liverpool fans have been waiting for, arrived.
Henderson tracked Mane’s run through the middle with a perfect ball from midfield and the Senegal striker, in turn, found Firminho. The Brazilian dragged the ball back which wrong-footed keeper Alves and defender Rodrigo Ciao before firing a right-footer into an empty net.
Just two minutes Salah saw his shot tipped over the bar by Alves but it did not matter as substitute Lincoln missed a fine chance to bring Flamengo back into the match.
Source: Qatar Olympic Committee