Sanfrecce Hiroshima made it safely through to the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup to set-up a showdown with River Plate thanks to a 3-0 win over TP Mazembe in Osaka.
It will be the constantly-singing Sanfrecce supporters rather than rhythmical African drumming echoing around the 2002 FIFA World Cup stadium when the famous Argentine side come to town on Wednesday, although the Africans certainly contributed to an enthralling and open game.
Both teams signalled their attacking intent from the first whistle. Yoshifumi Kagawa hit a curling drive from the left hand side of the area which whistled past Sylvain Gbohouo’s upright. Then at the other end Roger Assale’s drive from the edge of the box was turned around the post. The TP Mazembe midfielder swung in an inswinging corner and Salif Coulibaly glanced a header which flashed just wide.
Despite the Africans looking more likely to score, it was Sanfrecce who should have taken the lead. Robbing Boubacar Diarra in the centre of the park, Kazuyuki Morisaki strode forward and hit the perfect pass for Hisato Sato to run on to. The Japanese international only had the keeper to beat, but rushed his chance and opted for power rather than placement and his effort ballooned well over the bar.
Assale was at the heart of most things for the African champions, constantly probing in key areas and he tested Takuyo Hayashi twice from distance as the half drew to a close. Yet, on the 44th minute, the J. League champions took the lead. Yusuke Chajima’s low corner from the right was flicked across the six-yard box by the head of Sho Sasaki and Shiotani was on hand to stab the ball home from close range.
Thomas Ulimwengu made an introduction for TP Mazembe at half-time and almost had an instant impact. The young Tanzanian ran 40 yards with the ball at pace before firing a drive, which although had Hayashi beaten, missed the target. He also went close with a hook shot following a free-kick as the Africans searched for an equaliser.
Sato came close to scoring again when he was inches away from connecting with Mihael Mikic’s drive from the edge of the box, but on the 56th minute Hajime Moriyasu’s side doubled their advantage when Kazuhiko Chiba rose highest in a crowded area to head home another Chajima corner.
Arguably TP Mazembe’s best two players on the night, Adama Traore and Assale almost combined to devastating effect, but the latter’s spectacular overhead kick from close range flew over the crossbar. With CAF Champions League winners trying to get back in the game, gaps were appearing which Sanfrecce looked to exploit and Douglas was presented with two one-on-one opportunities, but couldn’t find a way past Gbohouo.
It was a breakaway which led to Sanfrecce’s third. Mikic’s cross from the right was nodded home by Asano nine minutes from time to start the celebrations. The commiserations must go to TP Mazembe, who like Club America in the day’s earlier game, must raise themselves for the match for fifth place, also at this famous arena on Wednesday.