Goals from Jesus Corona and Cesar Delgado have seen Monterrey become only the second Mexican team to finish third at a FIFA Club World Cup, as they beat Al-Ahly of Egypt 2-0 at the International Stadium Yokohama on Sunday.
The match lacked pace and rhythm in its early stages, and the opening goal had a comical quality to it. Monterrey’s teenage striker Corona, on again for the injured Humberto Suazo - who hasn’t played a minute at Japan 2012 - chased a hopeful ball forward from Neri Cardozo after three minutes. Goalkeeper Mahmoud Abou Elseoud raced off his line in a panic and cleared the ball straight off the face of pursuing defender Sayed Moawad. The ball then fell perfectly for Corona, who tapped home his second goal of the tournament into an unguarded net.
Even with their attacking talisman Mohamed Aboutrika on from the start for the first time at these finals, Hossam El Badry’s men failed to spark in the first half-hour. Most of the action took place up the other end with Delgado, Aldo De Nigris and Corona dictating the patterns. Los Rayados, who were handily beaten by Chelsea in the semi-final, wasted a golden chance in the 25th minute when De Nigris crossed in front of the goal when a shot looked to be the better option.
Aboutrika chases record
Al-Ahly sparked to life after the 30-minute mark, but they failed to find an equaliser despite some impressive attacking play. First, Emad Meteab slammed his header off the post to a groan from the section of the crowd that made the long journey from Egypt. Shortly after, Monterrey goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco denied Ahmed Fathi after a flowing move that might well have produced the goal of the tournament. Then, in the dying moments of the half, Aboutrika missed a chance to score his fifth goal in FIFA Club World Cup history, pushing his diving header just wide of the post.
The sparkling Aboutrika then had the first chance of the second period, turning and shooting from inside the area only to be denied again by the sprawling Orozco, so often Monterrey’s hero at the these finals. The Egyptian icon looked in the mood to score the goal that would have made him the tournament's all-time leading scorer, edging him ahead of Lionel Messi. But it wasn’t meant to be.
The African champions continued to pour on the pressure, but in doing so they left themselves exposed at the back. The wily Mexicans took decisive advantage, Delgado poking the ball over Abou Elseoud on the end of a lightning-quick counter-attack. Monterrey, with the win, become the first Mexican side since Necaxa in 2000 to finish third at a FIFA Club World Cup.