Brazilian giants Corinthians overcame Egypt’s Al Ahly 1-0 in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup in Toyota, Japan, yesterday to set up a likely final against European champions Chelsea.
A solitary goal from centerforward Paolo Guerrero was enough to see the winners of the Copa Libertadores progress, but it was nowhere near a convincing performance by the team from Sao Paulo.
Much had been expected from the South American champions, including Chelsea transfer target Paulinho, and the Brazilians dominated possession in the first half, with Al Ahly happy to let their opponents knock the ball around.
However, they were unable to turn possession into chances, and goal-scoring opportunities were few and far between during the opening period.
Corinthians midfielder Douglas was the first to go close, the No. 10’s shot from the edge of the penalty area creeping past goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy’s right-hand post on nine minutes.
Moments later Ramy Rabia missed a golden opportunity to put Al Ahly in front, heading wide from an unmarked position as the Corinthians’ defense stepped forward and failed to catch him offside.
The Brazilian giants breathed a sigh of relief and regrouped, continuing to see most of the ball and on the half-hour mark the Sao Paulo club had their breakthrough, with Douglas again in the thick of the action.
The left-footed player floated an inch-perfect cross into the box which Guerrero headed across goal into the bottom corner, giving Ekramy no chance and sending the crowds of Corinthians fans into raptures.
Corinthians pressed for a second as midfield dynamo Paulinho started to make inroads into the opposition half, but a second goal inside the first 45 minutes was not forthcoming.
In the second half it was all Al Ahly as the Egyptians surged forward, desperately looking for an equalizer.
Midfielder Ahmed Fathi wasted the best chance with a low shot into the side-netting as the Corinthians defenders started to look increasingly uncomfortable.
As the clock ran down, a spirited Al Ahly began to send the ball into the opposition’s box at every opportunity, but they were unable to grab the equalizer they were searching for.
The South American champions will probably face Chelsea in Sunday’s final in Yokohama, Japan, though the English Premier League club first need to dispose of Mexican side Monterrey in the other semi-final today.
Earlier at Toyota Stadium yesterday, J-League winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat the AFC Champions League holders Ulsan Hyundai 3-2 of South Korea to secure fifth place at the intercontinental showpiece.
The Japanese champions went 1-0 down when defender Hiroki Mizumoto put the ball into his own net, but bounced back to take a 3-1 lead, thanks to a goal by Satoru Yamagishi and a brace from forward Hisato Sato, before conceding a late consolation when Lee Yong scored in the fifth minute of stoppage-time for the South Korean side.