A late goal from captain Mohamed Noor was enough to hand Al Ittihad victory over rivals Al Ahly in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup Japan 2005 at the National stadium in Tokyo on Sunday. The 78th-minute strike brought to an end the African team's 55-match unbeaten run and now sets the Asian champions up with a clash against Brazil's Sao Paulo in the final four on Wednesday. The African champions will face the losers of the match between Sydney and Deportivo Saprissa.
On a freezing cold night in Tokyo it was Ahly, playing a 3-4-3 formation, who began the match the brighter. Young striker Emad Motab showed good pace and almost won a penalty with a dangerous burst into the box with just four minutes on the clock. From the resulting corner, Ahmed El Sayed, standing unmarked six yards out, almost guided the ball towards the corner but missed by inches. A minute later and it was Mohamed Barakat down the right showing a clean pair of heels to the Ittihad defence before being hauled down by Asia's player of the year Hamad Al Montashari.
The Saudi Arabian side were struggling to find their rhythm and on 13 minutes a poor clearance across the face of goal was picked up by their third attacker, Mohamed Aboutrika, but he hooked his shot well wide.
A serious of niggly fouls upset the Egyptian side's pattern of play and Ittihad grew in stature as the half wore on. Ahly had a glorious chance to open the scoring though in the 34th minute. A well worked corner was flicked on at the near post for Motab eight yards out but the striker could not get enough meat on the shot and Mabrouk Zaid scrambled to his left to parry.
The Asian champions were sparked into action. Four minutes later, Mohamed Kallon burst through the heart of the defence before being upended. The Sierra Leone star picked himself up but struck the kick straight into the hands of Essam El Hadary.
Kallon, on a year's loan from Monaco, was exerting a greater influence on the match and he sprinted through again five minutes before the break. This time, only the studs of the sliding Islam El Shater prevented a one-on-one with the keeper.
On the stroke of half-time, the African had another fine chance to break the deadlock. Tcheco delivered the corner and, leaping like a salmon, Kallon planted a textbook header low to the keeper's left. To the striker's amazement, though, El Hadary managed to stick out a hand and claw the ball away.
With snow falling, Al Ittihad began the second period much better. On 47 minutes, a fine pass from Noor found Mohammed Haidar unmarked but the midfielder screwed his shot wide. The same combination a minute later ended in the same result.
Down the other end, Barakat fed Mohamed Shawky whose piledriver was struck straight at Zaid. Suiting Anghel Iordanescu's team, the game was opening up. Tcheco struck the wall with a free kick before Motab blasted over from another set piece.
With 13 minutes left Kallon was put through in the inside left channel but once again he was thwarted by another fine save from El Hadary. Seconds later though Egypt's number one was holding his head in his hands. Coming for a cross from the right, he completely missed his punch and Noor was on hand to gleefully slot the bouncing ball into the empty net (1-0, '78).
Ahly, 55 matches unbeaten, appeared shorn of ideas to get back into the game. With four minutes left, Barakat almost stole in but he failed to control a long pass ending the African club's dreams of glory in the high-profile competition.