The reigning CONCACAF Champions League winners Monterrey tried the best they could, but in the end it wasn’t enough to bounce out European champions Liverpool, who took a 2-1 victory over the Mexican outfit in the 2019 Club World Cup semifinals.
The Reds and Rayados played an exciting first half where the plucky Mexican club kept the English giants at bay and didn’t let Liverpool have too many open spaces or clear chances at goal. Antonio Mohamed’s squad lined up well and played a counter-attack game that allowed them many opportunities to score had it not been for Liverpool’s all-star keeper Alisson, arguably the world’s top keeper in 2019.
The second half had significantly less exciting scoring chances, but Monterrey continued to play the ball well and defend to the best of their abilities despite noticeable fatigue. In the end, Liverpool, despite clearly possessing a more talented ensemble of players, was just one play better than Monterrey. That small sliver of dominance was enough to push Rayados out of the competition and boost the Premier League leaders to the Club World Cup final against South American champions Flamengo on Saturday, Dec. 18. Monterrey will battle for third place with Asian champions Al-Hilal that same day.
All in all, it was an incredibly noble performance from one of the best Mexican teams to come into the Club World Cup competition in recent memory. A third-place finish on Saturday would barely be just for a roster that deserved a little more.
12’ - We all know what Mohamed Salah is capable of. Now Monterrey does too. The Egyptian showed off his incredible “eyes-in-the-back-of-his-head” vision with this through ball to Naby Keita. An unsuspecting Cesar Montes loses the footrace and Keita bangs in the first goal of the match. That’s also three goals in the past four games for the Guinean, who is thriving right now with Fabinho injured.
This Salah ball to feed Keita— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 18, 2019
Liverpool took the lead vs Monterrey in the #ClubWC semifinal, but it wouldn't last long... pic.twitter.com/7zINzXFZar
14’ - But don’t get too comfortable, Liverpool! A great response from Monterrey followed the Red’s first goal. A well-engineered set piece play allowed for a great Jesus Gallardo volley (and Alisson save) before Rogelio Funes Mori got on the rebound and buried the ball into the net. With that, the Argentine scored his 100th goal in a Monterrey kit, cementing his status as a modern great and only 21 goals behind the club’s all-time goal scoring record. (Watch out, Chupete Suazo)
What a response by @Rayados!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 18, 2019
Rogelio Funes Mori follows up from close range with his 100th career goal for the club. pic.twitter.com/HuPHpQkDP3
90’ + 1’ - This is when every Monterrey fan’s soul was crushed. You could almost hear the gutted sighs of “oh not again” as another Mexican team was eliminated before the CWC final. Leonel Vangioni had done well earlier in the game in defending Salah’s runs with well-timed slide tackles, but it didn’t work this time. Salah found Alexander-Arnold who put in a smart, low cross to a fresh Bobby Firmino for the game-winning goal. Monterrey came close to a historic upset, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
85' Firmino subs on— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 18, 2019
90+1' Firmino scores the winner
Liverpool are on to the #ClubWC Final! pic.twitter.com/daW1BIyYQG
Man of the Match:
They say a picture says more than a thousand words.
But I’m going to keep typing anyway. Carlos Charly Rodriguez was the star for Monterrey in the midfield. The bright 22-year-old was an all-star in this game and so far this tournament he has shown European eyes what he can do.
Rodriguez played the No. 8 role masterfully, tracking back well and playing some phenomenal balls to Dorlan Pabon and the other Monterrey forwards. You could count on one hand the inaccurate passes the kid had. Rodriguez kept his composure at pivotal times and dribbled well even against Europe’s elites. The Mexican media had a field day with this example of what he did to Liverpool’s Keita.
Charly Rodriguez y 10 más pic.twitter.com/bnd5YKxeaB— luis jaime (@luiismontemayor) December 18, 2019
The future is bright for the Monterrey native. It’s no wonder why he’s heavily praised by Mexico coach Tata Martino and has been involved in 16 of El Tri’s 17 games in 2019. He’s already played in Europe after having a short loan spell with CD Toledo of Spain’s third division in 2017, but the odds of him returning to a much bigger club on a permanent basis look so much more in his favor after his CWC semifinal performance.
Premier League teams frantically googling Dorlan Pabon and Charly Rodriguez pic.twitter.com/5D0eT8EwMv— Jack Gidney (@Jgidney88) December 18, 2019
As for Liverpool, the result could have been a lot different had Alisson not been in goal. He gets man of the match for them.
You can follow Antonio on Twitter @antonio1998__