Monterrey were too hot to handle for Asian champions Ulsan Hyundai at the Toyota Stadium, their 3-1 win setting up a FIFA Club World Cup glamour clash with English Premier League giants Chelsea.
It was all one-way traffic in the first half as reigning Mexican champions Monterrey came out pressing in their second straight Club World Cup. If coach Victor Vucetich was at all concerned about the loss, through injury, of star Chilean striker Humberto Suazo, it didn’t last long. Los Rayados opened the scoring after only nine minutes, and it was a goal that had been coming for some time.
Tall target-man Aldo De Nigris chased a low ball in deep, past the far post, and cut back across the goal-mouth for young Mexican sensation Jesus Corona, who began the build-up and was taking Suazo’s place in the line-up. The striker made no mistake, slamming from close range into the small sliver of space left between the post and Kim Youngkwang.
The orange-clad Mexicans could well have doubled the lead seconds later, too, but De Nigris’s header from six yards out flew right into the arms of the Korean keeper. There were no more goals in the opening period, but Monterrey were the far superior side, creating havoc with their clever passing triangles between Corona, De Nigris and the sturdy Ecuador captain Walter Ayovi.
The Asian champions had no real answer, breaking out only on the occasional counter-attack and generally failing to make use of their towering striker Kim Shinwook. The lethargic Tigers finished the half without taking a single shot on goal.
Brief flashes of Tiger spirit
It looked as if the halftime team-talk did precious little to raise Ulsan’s spirits either, and the Koreans were lucky that Monterrey defender Sergio Perez had drifted into an offside position before heading into the back of Youngkwang’s net five minutes in. The Tigers did manage to roar once, however, in the 62nd minute, with their first legitimate attack of the night. Lee Yong raced up the right flank, after a clever bit of approach work, and crossed low for Kim Shinwook, who put the ball just wide of the post with a diving effort.
Ulsan located something resembling an attacking spark in the final 20 minutes, earning free-kicks in dangerous areas and trying to float the ball into Kim Shinwook, but it paid no dividends. And as the Asians pressed, they were left open, exposed on the counter-attack. Cesar Delgado poked home into an open net in the 77th minute and then added another, tip-toeing through the defence.
Lee Keunho, Asian player of the year for 2012, added a bit of consolation with seconds to go, his long-range shot befuddling Jonathan Orozco and somehow bounding into the back of the net. It was obviously a case of too-little-too-late as the Mexicans will now meet UEFA Champions League holders Chelsea on 13 December in Yokohama, in what will be the first game for the European representatives here in Japan. Ulsan Hyundai play Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the fifth-place play-off on 12 December.