It was a rematch 38 years in the making, and the Club World Cup final between Liverpool and Flamengo certainly delivered. The back and forth contest went all the way to extra-time, VAR intervened to deny Sadio Mane a second half stoppage time penalty before Roberto Firmino scored on the ninety ninth minute to crown Liverpool world champions.
Jurgen Klopp talked of his sides desire to come away from Doha as world club cup winners and as Firmino hooked a shot over the bar with the contest barely thirty seconds old the intentions of the European Champions where clear.
Flamengo, backed by 15,000 diehard fans roared they team along in the early exchanges and quickly produced their first chance of note as Uruguayan playmaker Giorgian De Arrascaeta pushed a shot over two minutes in.
It was a breathless start from both sides, and Liverpool opened up the Copa Libatadores champions for a second time. Jordan Henderson’s long ball picked up a surging run from Mohamed Salah who held the ball up before passing to Naby Keita, a little more composure from the Guinean and Liverpool could have taken the lead.
Liverpool poured forward again and Trent Alexander-Arnold hit a speculative shot from distance, which had Diego Alves moving quickly to cover his post, flying just wide.
Bruno Henrique skipped around Joe Gomez, yet failed to pick out anyone with the cross. Henrique was starting to fine space on the left, the winger latched onto another long ball and had the better of Trent Alexander-Arnold before his shot rebounded out for a corner.
Liverpool started to dominate possession in the closing stages of the half, without really clicking in attack. It seemed a signal of intent for what was to come. Sadio Mane picked up a yellow for a cynical swipe on Rafinha.
The European Champions started the second half on the front foot Henderson clipped a ball to Firmino, a flick over the defender and a volley into the ground which bounced up and hit the wood work.
Liverpool came close again, Alexander-Arnold snapped in a cross to Mohamed Salah, the deft flick inches wide from the Egyptian. Not to be outdone Gabiriel Barbosa stepped up for Flamengo, a slick passing move concluded with a goal bound shot towards the bottom corner, Alisson pulled off a save to keep the Reds on level terms.
Flamengo found a foothold as the second half progressed, keeping Liverpool at bay and picking their moments to counter through the pace of Henrique. Gabriel Barbosa was at the heart of the action although his acrobatic overhead kick was gathered by Alisson.
Liverpool were forced into a change when Alexander Oxlande-Chamberlain fell awkwardly in challenging for a ball, injuring his ankle. Adam Lallana came on in his place. Surprisingly it was Flamengo who was edging possession and shots on goal heading into the final stages of regular time.
Liverpool skipped forward again, Salah diligently holding the ball up and passing back to Jordan Henderson who saw the effort tipped over by Diego Alves. The drama ramped up in stoppage time after the referee initially awarded a penalty for Rafinha’s challenge on Sadio Mane. After a VAR review, the penalty was overturned and the yellow card was risinded. Flamengo had survived and taken Liverpool to extra-time.
Liverpool ground down Flamengo, and eventually grabbed the all-important goal with ninety nine minutes on the clock. Jordan Henderson launched a ball towards Sadio Mane, who picked out Roberto Firmino who showed all the composure in the world to take a touch and fire the ball into an empty net.
Flamengo tried in vain to find parity as Bruno Henrique saw a dangerous shot come cross deflected into the arms of Alisson. Still, the 15,000 die hard fans roared their side on.
It may have not been vintage from Liverpool but they ground out the result and became world champions. Now the hustle of festive football will begin for Klopp’s side, although he will certainly encouraged by his teams fighting qualities in Doha.