European champions Chelsea outclassed Mexican side Monterrey 3-1 at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan yesterday to set up a mouthwatering final with Brazilian giants Corinthians.
The English Premier League club, debuting at the intercontinental tournament, dominated large spells of the first half and had the match sewn up shortly into the second — scoring two goals within three minutes of the restart.
Monterrey were bidding to become the first CONCACAF champions to reach a Club World Cup final, but the strength of Chelsea’s David Luiz in midfield, coupled with the trickery of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, proved too much for the Mexicans.
“It was a good game, high tempo, good play, great goals and great movement, so lots of positives for us,” interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez said. “We knew they were a good team, but we didn’t know if they would be a good team against us. The reaction of the team, especially at the start of the second half, was quite good, so I’m very pleased with the performance.”
Chelsea started the match with the greater intent and Luiz went close to scoring inside the first four minutes, breaking from his unfamiliar defensive midfield position to fire narrowly over the bar from just outside the box.
Eden Hazard missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring two minutes later. Luiz played a precision pass which split the Monterrey defense, but the Belgian pushed the ball wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Chelsea had their breakthrough on 17 minutes with a beautifully worked goal that was expertly finished by Mata.
Midfielder Oscar played a back-heel to Ashley Cole on the edge of the penalty area. The leftback then squared it to the Spaniard, who took a touch before smashing it past Monterrey goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco.
Monterrey’s only clear-cut chance in the first 45 minutes came shortly afterwards when striker Aldo de Nigris headed over the bar from close range.
Any hopes the Mexicans had for a second-half comeback were dashed after just 15 seconds of the restart, Fernando Torres grabbing a deflected goal from inside the box with much of the 36,648 crowd yet to return to their seats.
The match was over as a contest on 48 minutes when Darvin Chavez put the ball into his own net to make it 3-0.
A rout appeared to be on the cards at the 68,000-capacity International Stadium in Yokohama, but Victor Vucetich’s side steadied the ship and scored a consolation goal through De Nigris in stoppage-time.
“I regret that we lost the way we did,” Vucetich said. “We made our best efforts, however there were several times where we lost our concentration. We did have some opportunities to score, but the game was decided when we lost those two goals.”
Chelsea play Copa Libertadores winners Corinthians in the final in Yokohama on Sunday. Earlier that day, Monterrey take on Egypt’s Al Ahly in a playoff for third place.