Fifa Club World Cup UAE: Palmeiras thump Al Ahly 2-0 to enter final

Like a bird: Palmeiras striker Rony (in the air) goes for an aerial ball while teammate Marcos Rocha (left) and Al Ahly’s Mohamed Afsha look during their Fifa Club World Cup semifinal on Tuesday night. — Neeraj Murali
Like a bird: Palmeiras striker Rony (in the air) goes for an aerial ball while teammate Marcos Rocha (left) and Al Ahly’s Mohamed Afsha look during their Fifa Club World Cup semifinal on Tuesday night. — Neeraj Murali

Abu Dhabi - It was a sweet revenge for the Brazilian side after losing to CAF champions Al Ahly, on penalties, in the third-place match at the 2020 edition in Qatar



by

Ashwani Kumar

Published: Tue 8 Feb 2022, 11:03 PM

Reigning Copa Libertadores champions Palmeiras thrashed Egyptian giants 10-man Al Ahly 2-0 to enter the final of the Fifa Club World Cup UAE 2021 in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday night.

It was a sweet revenge for the Brazilian side after losing to CAF champions Al Ahly, on penalties, in the third-place match at the 2020 edition in Qatar.

There was much at stake for both sides and the Al Nahyan Stadium was packed with vibrant and boisterous Brazilian fans occupying the majority of the seats.

And the much-anticipated semis encounter began at a blistering pace. Al Ahly were able to keep more possession in the early stages, but as the game wore on, it was a near domination by Palmeiras.

Paraguayan Gomez Gustavo and centre-back Luan constantly delivered deep balls into the Al Ahly half, and Marcos Rocha, Joaquin Piquerez provided through passes to the Palmeiras attackers with great accuracy, and winger Dudu, playmakers Raphael Veiga and Gustavo Scarpa were livewires in the middle. Al Ahly, meanwhile, bolstered the defence with the return of national player Ayman Ashraf.

In the early exchanges, there were two searing runs from Al Ahly’s Dieng Aliou into Palmeiras half, which stood out. And two half-chances for Hussein Elshahat was what the Egyptian side could manage in the first 30 minutes.

A tireless Palmeiras kept pushing, asking questions from both the flanks. The relentless pursuit of the Brazilians paid dividends. On 39 minutes, Veiga scored a stunning goal. Winger Dudu sent an exceptional assist to the box and a rampaging Veiga swooped at the opportunity by blasting a powerful low shot into the far-left post, beyond the reach of fully stretched keeper Ali Lotfy. And the stadium erupted with the ardent fans breaking into wild celebrations.

However, the goal led to an immediate response from the Egyptians. Midfielder Amr Mohamed had two attempts at the goal, one coming towards the end of the first half. A goal then could have given some momentum to Al Ahly.

But just three minutes after the restart, Palmeiras slammed the door shut on Al Ahly. Dudu registered his name onto the scoresheet with a lightning solo run from the right flank into the Al Ahly box and then hit a massive shot into the goal, giving keeper Lotfy no chance.

Al Ahly kept trying to find their first goal in their fourth appearance in the semis. There were several attempts as Al Ahly went on the offensive. Coach Pitso Mosimane introduced striker Mohamed Sherif and midfielder Hamdy Fathy — both returning from their national duties. And on 71 minutes, Al Ahly finally thought they had found the breakthrough as Sherif managed to find the back of the net. But VAR review ruled the No.10 was off-side.

On 81 minutes, Al Ahly went down to 10 men as Ashraf was shown a red card for a two-footed tackle. There were six minutes of added time and several Al Ahly supporters could be seen praying for a reversal of fortunes. They got close with an attempt crashing onto the cross bar but it was one of those nights when they failed to convert.

Now, Palmeiras will face either Uefa champs Chelsea or Asian powerhouses Al Hilal at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Saturday. Meanwhile, Al Ahly will play the third-place match — a repeat of last edition, at the same venue.


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