After all the hassle involved in coming to Qatar, Liverpool is one game away from leaving as world champions.
Roberto Firmino’s stoppage-time minute winner sealed a 2-1 victory over Monterrey in the Club World Cup semifinals on Wednesday less than 24 hours after Liverpool played another game back in England.
Jurgen Klopp had to watch from Qatar as team made up largely of youth players was routed 5-0 by Aston Villa in the League Cup on Tuesday.
But prioritizing the FIFA game a day later paid off, even though Klopp expressed unhappiness before the trip about about the field conditions in rainy Doha, and was edgy about being questioned on Qatar’s human rights record after he arrived.
The Club World Cup final will be a rematch 38 years in the making as Liverpool faces Flamengo. They met in a 1981 version of this tournament when the Brazilians won the one-off meeting of the European and South American champions.
So much has changed since then with European soccer more powerful than ever before.
But Liverpool found it more difficult than expected against Monterrey.
Naby Keita put Liverpool ahead in the 11th minute but that goal was canceled out inside three minutes by Rogelio Funes Mori for the Mexican team.
The game looked headed for extra time when Firmino hit the target within six minutes of coming off the bench.
The Brazil forward’s goal was initially created by Mohamed Salah’s surge down the right flank before Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross was flicked in at the near post by Firmino.
“They made it very difficult for us,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said. “We didn’t create too much to be honest, but we had a couple of half-decent chances. Thankfully we managed to get one at the end.”
Unlike during the world track and field championships in the same Khalifa stadium two months ago, there was no need for sections to be covered with material.
The stadium was largely full for the FIFA event, with an attendance of 45,416 given for the second semifinal on Qatar National Day.
Even for showpiece track sprints, barely a thousand fans were in the stands.
Unlike for those championships, there has been an influx of visiting fans particularly from Brazil and from England.