Internacional dig deep to reach final
Internacional of Porto Alegre had to draw on all their
resources to see off a determined
Al Ahly side at Tokyo's National Stadium and advance to the
final of the FIFA World Club Cup Japan 2006. Facing
Los Colorados in Sunday's big showdown will be the
winners of tomorrow's second semi-final between Mexico's
Club America and Spanish giants Barcelona.
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Sporting an all-white change strip, it was Inter who dominated the opening stages, with Edinho and Alex working hard in their respective holding roles, Fernandao distributing the ball with typical precision and Iarley and Alexandre Pato probing away up front. The Egyptians made life difficult for the Copa Libertadores champions by stringing two lines of four across defence, and despite monopolising possession, Inter were initially reduced to firing in long-range strikes, with Wellington Monteiro, Iarley and Ceara all trying their luck. Nevertheless, the Brazilians' patient possession game was eventually rewarded midway through the first half when 17-year-old starlet Pato drilled home a loose ball from the edge of the area to open the scoring.
Prompted by Mohamed Aboutrika and Shawky Mohamed, Al Ahly began to wrestle the initiative from an Inter side looking to maintain their attacking rhythm. Clemer did well to push away a well-struck Emad El Nahas free kick from fully 30 metres, and as half-time approached, Aboutrika picked up a loose ball in the Inter box before slamming a drive against Clemer's right-hand post. Then, in stoppage time, Shawky popped up unmarked at the far post only to send his shot high into the Tokyo night.
The Egyptians continued in the same vein after the break and duly grabbed the equaliser they deserved when Ashour Hossam picked out Tarek Said on the right and the defender sent in a first-time cross for Flavio to head past Clemer.
The African fightback forced Abel Braga to turn to his bench for a response. Off came defender Martin Hidalgo to be replaced by striker Ricardo Cardoso, and a minute later goalscorer Pato was withdrawn as 19-year-old Luiz Adriano entered the fray. The switches breathed new life into Inter as Ah Ahly were gradually penned back in their own half. Then with less than 20 minutes go Luiz Adriano repaid his coach's faith when he nodded his side back into the lead from Caera's corner.
The goal momentarily knocked Manuel Jose's side out of their stride but the Egyptians soon recovered their composure and went in search of another equaliser. The Africans' calm, calculated attacks met with no reward, though, and a determined Inter clung on to claim a place in Sunday's final in Yokohama, where they will aim to become the third Brazilian side to be crowned world champions.