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Fifa Club World Cup UAE: Chelsea end nine-year wait to be crowned champions

Chelsea players celebrate with the Fifa Club World Cup trophy after defeating Brazilian side Palmeiras in the final, in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. — Neeraj Murali
Chelsea players celebrate with the Fifa Club World Cup trophy after defeating Brazilian side Palmeiras in the final, in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. — Neeraj Murali

Abu Dhabi - Kai Havertz scored from the spot in extra time after the game against Brazilian club Palmeiras had ended 1-1 in normal time



by

Ashwani Kumar

Published: Sun 13 Feb 2022, 12:13 AM

Kai Havertz converted a penalty in extra-time as Chelsea lifted the Fifa Club World Cup crown for the first time by prevailing 2-1 over Palmeiras at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night.

The game ended 1-1 in normal time, and in extra time, a VAR review showed that the ball had hit the hand of Palmeiras defender Luan inside the box. And striker Havertz calmly blasted into the left corner to end Chelsea’s nine-year-old wait for the only trophy missing from their cabinet. Later, the Brazilian club ended with 10 men as Luan was handed a red card for a nasty challenge on Havertz.

Chelsea players celebrate the victory. — Neeraj Murali
Chelsea players celebrate the victory. — Neeraj Murali

It was a nervy start to the contest for both the sides as ‘Palmeiras’ chant filled the air. Uefa champions’ coach Thomas Tuchel was on the touchline marshalling his boys and made three changes to the squad while Copa Libertadores winners’ coach Abel Ferreira fielded an unchanged Palmeiras XI.

In the first few minutes, there was a threatening run into the Palmeiras box by Havertz and attempts by Rony and Dudu at the other end. ‘The Blues’, as expected, tried to keep possession and attacked on the break, one such act being on 10 minutes by lively striker Callum Hudson-Odoi, but his shot was easily blocked. Chelsea kept pressing with right winger Mount Mason creating a couple of chances.

The Brazilian club relied more on counter-attacks as the English side dominated proceedings. On 24 minutes, Palmeiras’ Dudu nearly pulled off a stunner with his solo run effort and just three minutes later, the striker should have scored but failed to find power and direction. In this little phase, ‘Alviverde’ the white-green bunch, were breathing down Chelsea’s neck.

While it was an even contest in the middle, in the stands, Palmeiras’ fans, making the majority of 32,800 supporters in attendance, kept belting out a series of chants and songs with loud drum beats, turning the encounter into a carnival. Chelsea fans, meanwhile, were watching silently, almost dazed by the defiant show from the Sao Paulo-based outfit.

On 30 minutes, Chelsea were on the back foot as Mount picked up an injury and was replaced by American striker Christian Pulisic.

There were chances at either end, while the Chelsea frontline failed to find their mark, Palmeiras strikers were guilty of going for glory shots. To their credit, the Palmeiras’ back-four led by Paraguayan skipper Gustavo Gomez was proving too difficult to break for the famed London club. Both the keepers Weverton and Senegal’s Edouard Mendy, playing instead of Kepa Arrizabalaga, were effective.

Chelsea returned strongly into the match after the restart. N’Golo Kante made some bursting runs into the box and defender Antonio Rudiger fancied a long-ranger that fizzed over the bar. And the pressure paid off as, on 55 minutes, Chelsea scored.

Callum unleashed a cross from the left end of the park and Romelu Lukaku, the tall Belgian, towered over Palmeiras defenders to net with a fierce header, and Chelsea fans, sitting sprinkled in small groups across the stadium, erupted in unison. The blue flags and banners were out.

Chelsea fans celebrate at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. — Neeraj Murali
Chelsea fans celebrate at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. — Neeraj Murali

Palmeiras response was immediate. With an open game, Dudu was through but again failed to control the ball. But lady luck smiled on Palmeiras as Chelsea’s Brazilian defender Thiago Silva was found, through VAR review, to have handled the ball in his box. And Raphael Veiga converted the penalty. The ‘white and green’ army were back raising decibel levels. Both the goal scorers from their previous match: Lukaku and Veiga had found the back of the net.

The final stretch of the match was a highly pressing game filled with challenges, tackles and flurry of substitutions. After five added minutes to normal play, the final went into extra time.


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