Paolo Guerrero scored his second goal of Japan 2012 to earn Corinthians a 1-0 win over English Premier League side Chelsea and a second world club crown. The game in the International Stadium Yokohama was a tense and intriguing affair, and in the end the Brazilians’ guile and grit won the day.
Corinthians immediately settled into their trademark defensive swarm, pressuring Chelsea all over the pitch early on. The men from London did their level best to set down a passing rhythm and take control of possession, but it was no easy task as Tite’s men contested every ball and closed down space with a work ethic that was well appreciated by throngs of Brazilian fans, who turned the stadium into a bouncing cauldron of black and white.
Chelsea’s first corner of the game nearly resulted in an opening goal in the 11th minute. Gary Cahill, up from the centre of defence, headed well, only for Cassio to block the shot and then gobble up the rebound before the defender could follow up and crash it over the line.
The side from Sao Paulo had to be content with shots from long range for most of the first half, which generally failed to trouble Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal.
At the other end, Eden Hazard, with his quick turns and overall panache, looked a likely source to break down Corinthians’ defensive wall, and he earned a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area after 21 minutes. David Luiz, back in defence after a stint in midfield in the semi-final win over Monterrey, hit poorly and low into the wall.
With ten minutes to go in the half, Corinthians, who looked consistently dangerous on the counter-attack, had their best chance of the period. Guerrero battled into the box, scuffing a shot across the face of goal. Emerson was alert to the opportunity, but he could only hit the outside of the post with the hulking Branislav Ivanovic in the way.
Shortly after, Victor Moses – on for Oscar in his first start of the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup – cut inside from the left and curled a dangerous shot toward the top corner. He was denied a goal only by the sheer athleticism of the diving Cassio, who was at work again seconds later to deny Frank Lampard and keep the scores even at the interval.
Corinthians pull away
The second half picked up right where the first left off: physically robust and full of rough-and-tumble battles all over the pitch. The first chance came nine minutes in, Juan Mata sending Hazard away with a fabulous through ball. Cassio, again, was alert to the danger, racing off his line to cut down the angle and save from the Belgian.
Corinthians took full advantage and found their breakthrough after 69 minutes. Danilo dribbled across the face of goal and fired in a shot, which was blocked by the courageous Gary Cahill. The deflection, however, took the ball straight up in the air and into the path of the foraging Guerrero, who leapt to head in to the net to an almighty roar from the Brazilians fans behind the goal.
The score remained unchanged until the final whistle. Chelsea, who finished the game with ten men after Cahill saw red, were unable to find a way back despite a late effort from Fernando Torres that was somehow blocked by the legs of the heroic Cassio. Corinthians scored only two goals here in Japan to become club world champions for 2012 – and both of them were scored by Guerrero, and both with his head. The title is Corinthians’ second world club crown after they picked up the inaugural laurels in 2000.