Corinthians edge Al-Ahly to reach final
© AFP

Paolo Guerrero scored the only goal of the game as Brazilian giants Corinthians saw off the challenge of Egypt’s Al-Ahly, winning the semi-final 1-0 in Toyota to move on to the final of the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup, where they will meet either English Premier League side Chelsea or Mexico’s Monterrey.

The Brazilians began their Japan 2012 journey cautiously and defensively, exactly how they successfully navigated the Copa Libertadores tournament in South America to book their place in the Far East. Their first chance came after ten minutes, but midfield creator Douglas scuffed his shot from the edge of the box and the ball bobbled well wide.

Two minutes later, Al-Ahly’s Ramy Rabia snuck in behind the Brazilian defence. He did well to get on the end of a Walid Soliman free-kick, but he headed over, never looking in the right position to hit the target. From there on out, the game settled in midfield with neither side willing to commit too much forward.

Al-Ahly sat back, coach Hossam el Badry showing his intentions by leaving out star striker and club icon Mohamed Aboutrika, who came on as substitute to score the winner in the quarter-final against Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

The half-hour mark brought an opening goal, however, with Peruvian striker Guerrero breaking down the Egyptians’ resistance. He headed a looping cross from Douglas past Sherif Ekramy, who was slow to make his dive after side-stepping across the goal-line.

The second half reverted back to a defensive posture, with Corinthians happy enough to sit deep and protect their slim lead. Rabia managed one of very few chances in the 63rd minute, his shot from the edge of the area flying just wide of the diving Cassio. Shortly after, at the other end, Al-Ahly’s first-choice keeper Ekramy was forced to quit the contest after pulling his hamstring while taking a goal-kick. Mahmoud Abou Elseoud came on to replace him between the sticks.

Final push
The Egyptians began to press the issue from there on out, El Badry having brought on the livewire Aboutrika in an attempt to spark his team to life. “He may be getting older,” the coach said of his 34-year-old talisman a few days ago, “but he’s getting wiser too.” Aboutrika’s brilliant pass freed the outstanding Ahmed Fathi in the 67th minute, but the midfielder’s shot from a tight angle went just the wrong side of the post.

Al-Ahly continued to push forward, and with less than ten minutes left on the clock, Soliman fizzed a devilish shot just over Cassio’s bar as Corinthians and their massive banks of travelling fans breathed a big sigh of relief. There were a few more half chances for the brave Egyptians, but their attempts at attack were not to be rewarded.

The Brazilian representatives now move on to the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup final, where they will meet the winner of tomorrow’s other semi-final between Chelsea and Monterrey in Yokohama. Al-Ahly, for their part, will play-off for third place against the loser of the other semi-final showdown.