Al-Sadd have secured third place at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011 with a 5-3 win on penalties after their third-place play-off against Kashiwa Resyol at Yokohama International Stadium ended in a goalless draw. Both goalkeepers were in inspired form in this all-Asian affair between the continental champions and J.League winners, and a key save from Mohamed Saqr against Ryohei Hiyashi preceded Nadir Belhadj crashing home the winning kick.
This was Kashiwa’s fifth game in little over a fortnight, but there was little evidence of fatigue in a performance that was typical of the J.League champions’ energetic contribution to this tournament. Nelsinho’s side have won plenty of new admirers over the past couple of weeks with their slick, quick-passing style, and they again impressed in this, their fourth FIFA Club World Cup outing.
It took just six minutes for their patient build-up play to yield the game’s first effort on goal, with Koki Mizuno firing wide from 25 yards at the end of a flowing move. Backed by their boisterous band of supporters, the host representatives continued to dictate the pace, with Al-Sadd content to hit on the break when the opportunity arose.
The Qataris’ first foray forward came when the illegal halting of Khalfan Al Khalfan’s piercing solo run resulted in a free-kick which Belhadj curled left-footed over the wall, forcing Takanori Sugeno to palm the ball to safety. Jorge Fossati’s side remained dangerous on the counter and called Sugeno into action twice more as the half progressed, with African duo Kader Keita and Mamadou Niang both thwarted by the Japanese goalkeeper’s agility.
Keepers on top
Yet it was Kashiwa who came closest to opening the scoring in the first half, with Junya Tanaka driving against the base of the post from 20 yards after cutting in from the right flank. That was after 26 minutes, and barely 60 seconds had elapsed before the same player was denied again, this time by a brilliant Saqr save after side-footing Hiroki Sakai’s intelligent cutback goalwards.
Chances were at a premium in the second half, but Kashiwa remained the more potent attacking threat. On 62 minutes, they finally found a way through the Al-Sadd defence, but after chesting down Wataru Hasimoto’s deep cross, Hideaki Kitajima was denied by the legs of Saqr. The Qatari keeper received an accidental knee in the head for his troubles, but was quickly on his feet again as Kashiwa resumed their search for an opener.
Jorge Wagner tried his luck but again found Saqr to be an impenetrable barrier, while Sugeno also had to be at his best to palm away a powerfully struck long-range free-kick from Ibrahim Abdulmajed. There was also a near miss for Niang, who watched his left-footed shot deflect off the boot of Naoya Kondo and loop up over Sugeno, only to land on the roof of the net.
With the two keepers in such defiant mood, penalties were called upon to decide the outcome, and it was Saqr who was left celebrating. The quality of the spot-kicks was excellent, and it was only a superb diving stop from the Al-Sadd keeper that denied Hayashi, allowing Belhadj to seal the victory with his team’s fifth straight successful conversion.