Roberto Firmino struck in extra time to hand Liverpool a first FIFA Club World Cup triumph as Jurgen Klopp’s side eventually ended the resistance of Brazilian champions Flamengo in Qatar.
The Brazil international scored in a 1-0 win against compatriots Flamengo in the extra period to ease the feeling of injustice which had unfolded deep into added time at the end of 90 minutes.
Jurgen Klopp’s side had a penalty chalked off by VAR after Qatari referee Abdulrahman Al Jassim consulted his pitchside monitor and ruled Sadio Mane had been fouled outside the area.
However, instead of a free-kick and red card for Rafinha Al Jassim awarded a drop-ball to Flamengo, just the latest on a night of strange decisions.
At that point it seemed it was going to be fourth time unlucky for Liverpool, who had come up short in this competition in 1981, 1984 and 2005.
You could almost hear a collective “told you so” from the critics back in England who felt Klopp should have prioritised the Carabao Cup – instead of sending out a youth team to get beat 5-0 by Aston Villa – over this tournament.
However, Firmino – who had missed the first chance after just 42 seconds – finished off a sweeping move started by Jordan Henderson, benefiting from Mane’s hold-up play and lay-off 10 minutes into the first 15 extra minutes.
It was an historic goal which saw the Reds become the first English side to win an unprecedented treble of Champions League, European Super Cup and Club World Cup.
FIFA’s plan was for this event to showcase Qatar’s footballing capabilities to the rest of the globe ahead of the 2022 World Cup controversially awarded to the Gulf state.
However, the appointment of a local official with a lack of experience for the final left organisers open to criticism.
The 32-year-old referee, who previous experience included the 2017 Under-17 World Cup and video assistant for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, was officiating the most high-profile game of his career.
Liverpool should have put the game beyond doubt long before the referee started to have an impact as Firmino, Naby Keita and Trent Alexander-Arnold all had chances in the opening 10 minutes.
But their early confidence and dominance soon waned as, with Flamengo happy to make the contest more of a scrap than a beauty contest, the Brazilians provided a test.
Virgil Van Dijk’s return to central defence had the desired effect, blocking the best chance of the half when Bruno Henrique burst free.
Firmino began the second half as he had done the first with an early chance, hitting the post with the ball spinning back across goal, with Salah stabbing an Alexander-Arnold cross wide.
Alisson Becker denied Gabriel Barbosa twice, once from an overhead kick, but everything seemed to be just that fraction off for Liverpool: passes fell short, first touches went long, and as a result they struggled to properly open up Flamengo.
That was amplified when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain limped off having gone down thumping the turf in agony after a challenge saw his ankle buckle.
A well-offside Salah gave the mainly Arab crowd what they had come to see by putting the ball in the net but it was not until the 80th minute that Alexander-Arnold had the team’s first shot on target, quickly followed by Henderson forcing Diego Alves to tip over.
Then came the controversy and confusion with Rafinha remaining on a booking, initially benefiting from the law of double-jeopardy for conceding a penalty and then from the inaccurate application of the laws by the referee, who awarded a drop-ball and not a foul.
Thankfully Firmino found a way to decide the game without the need for official intervention and Salah and Van Dijk both had shots saved which could have put the result beyond doubt.
When substitute Lincoln blazed over in the final minute of extra time the job was done and Liverpool had completed their ‘moon landing’ in conquering the world.
They return home with a 66th trophy in the club’s history now focused on becoming champions of England, with the added bonus that Manchester City’s victory over Leicester ensured their lead at the top of the Premier League remains 10 points.
Sheffield United Demolish Chelsea 3-0
Chelsea hope of top-four finish was threatened on Saturday with a 3-0 comprehensive defeat by Sheffield United.
Two first-half goals and a third from McGoldrick condemned the Blues to the devastating defeat.
They remained at 60points on third position with Leicester at 59 points and Manchester United on 58 points despite playing one more game.
BREAKING: Super Eagles Star Onuachu Tests Positive For COVID-19
Super Eagles striker Paul Onuachu has tested positive for coronavirus, according to his Belgian club Genk.
But his club mates and compatriots Stephen Odey and Cyril Dessers tested negative.
The 26-year-old striker is the only positive case in the club.
“In the run-up to the first exhibition game of the season, the entire Genk group was tested yesterday (Tuesday). Everyone tested negative except Onuachu,” a report on Belgian website hln.be stated.
The 6ft7in striker left Belgium for Nigeria on May 27, alongside fellow Eagles strikers Victor Osimhen and Imoh Ezekiel.
He returned to his club June 28 after he was stranded for a week in Lagos due to travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to hln.be, Onuachu will miss Genk’s first exhibition game of the season against Eendracht Termien on Thursday as he will be quarantined for a week.
Onuachu’s COVID-19 status has however raised concerns within the Genk squad as he had trained intensively with the rest of the squad for more than a week now.
Onuachu joined Genk from Danish club FC Midtjylland last summer and scored 10 goals for the club before the Belgian Pro Division season was ended abruptly due to COVID-19.
Man Utd Thrash Bournemouth 5-2 To Move Into Top Four
Manchester United moved into the top four as Mason Greenwood struck a brilliant brace in a 5-2 victory over relegation-threatened Bournemouth.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side went above Chelsea ahead of the Blues’ game against Watford with a win that extended their unbeaten run to 16 games in all competitions.
They fell behind to Junior Stanislas’ opener, but led at the break through first-half efforts from Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
The Cherries took a shock 16th-minute lead when Stanislas followed up his initial blocked effort and nutmegged Harry Maguire on the byline before beating David de Gea at his near post.
It was the first time United had conceded in 500 minutes in all competitions, but they soon roared back when Greenwood blasted in a venomous left-footed drive having been found by Fernandes.
And six minutes later, United were ahead. Adam Smith needlessly handled the ball following Martial’s downward header and Rashford stuck the resulting penalty into the bottom-right corner of the net.
That put Rashford ahead of Martial in their personal goals duel, though the Frenchman also moved onto 20 for the campaign in emphatic fashion, cutting in off the left flank and rifling into the top corner with a brilliant right-footed strike.
Bournemouth were handed a route back into the match when United made a sloppy start to the second half.
De Gea had already saved from Lewis Cook and Arnaut Danjuma hit the post after Maguire gave the ball away before Eric Bailly handled trying to control Nemanja Matic’s pass.
King converted the penalty against his old club, only for Greenwood to again deliver an emphatic response six minutes later, this time with his right foot.
Fernandes, with two assists to his name already, then got in on the act as United scored five at Old Trafford in a Premier League game for the first time since 2011.
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