Sao Paulo strike gold for South America
Sao Paulo were crowned champions of the world after defeating Liverpool 1-0 at the Yokohama International stadium in Japan on Sunday. A 27th-minute goal from midfielder Mineiro was enough to give the Copa Libertadores' holders a famous win in the inaugural six-team FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup Japan 2005. Coming into the match on the back of eight straight wins, European champions Liverpool missed a host of chances to equalise but there was no way past the inspired Rogerio Ceni, later named the winner of the adidas Golden Ball and Toyota Award.
Liverpool made five changes to the side that defeated Deportivo Saprissa 3-0 on Thursday. Rotating his squad, coach Rafa Benitez rested Peter Crouch and Djibril Cisse, bringing in Spanish duo Fernando Morientes and Luis Garcia up front.
And the English side had a great chance to take the lead from the very first attack. Steven Gerrard span on a quick throw in, drilled the ball cross for Fernando Morientes but the Spanish striker's powerful header from six yards flew wide.
Both groups of supporters were making plenty of noise on a cold December evening in Japan but it was Sao Paulo who began to dominate possession.
On 22 minutes, nice interchange between Aloisio and Amoroso ended with the latter shooting straight at Reina. The Brazilians pressed and a speculatively Cicinho lob from the halfway line just cleared the bar as Paulo Autuori's team grew in confidence. The match slowly began to open up and at the other end Junior made a last ditch saving tackle as Morientes bore down on goal.
The European champions' back line had begun pushing up but they were caught out by a sweet move. Aloisio showed a fine touch and great vision to lob the ball into the path of Mineiro, running through the heart of Liverpool's defence, and the midfielder coolly side-footed home to send the Paulista fans delirious (1-0, '27). It was the first time the Reds and Pepe Reina had been breached in 11 matches, but no more than Sao Paulo deserved for a bright opening.
Liverpool almost equalised seconds later. Gerrard swung in a corner from the left and Luis Garcia, outjumping his marker, flicked his header onto the top of the bar. The Spaniard's darting moves were proving threatening and he should have done better just after the half hour. A fine move from left to right ended with Xabi Alonso chipping through but Garcia couldn't direct his header and the ball trickled wide.
Liverpool were now well on top. Three minutes on it was the skipper's turn to miss an inviting opening. Harry Kewell got the better of Cicinho down the left, but Gerrard, 10 yards out, placed his shot wide of the target.
Garcia was holding his head in his hands on 39 minutes. From the left side, Gerrard bent in a free kick with pace and the Spanish forward, again losing his marker, directed his header into the far corner only for Ceni to pull off a spectacular save. From the corner, Sami Hyypia shot straight at the keeper. The big Finn, moving forward, had another effort in first-half stoppage time but his header fell kindly into the arms of Ceni.
It was Gerrard's turn to look up the heavens seven minutes after the restart. Twenty-five yards out, his free kick was heading straight into the top corner but Ceni, flying to his left, pulled off another terrific save to keep his side ahead. The goalkeeper was at it again as Liverpool piled on the pressure, tipping Kewell's cross onto the bar. The Brazilians were being pinned inside their own half. Garcia finally found the net on 62 but his header was ruled out for offside. A minute on, Morientes' spectacular overhead kick landed a yard wide. Seconds later, Garcia, racing clear, forced Ceni into yet another acrobatic save.
Somehow Sao Paulo had weathered the storm. Morientes and Garcia had more chances and in the last minute, substitute Florent Sinama Pongolle found the net but from an offside position. With seconds remaining, Gerrard fired a 25 yarder inches wide. There was still time for Garcia to squander another opening but, this time, it was not to be Liverpool's day as Sao Paulo jumped for joy at the final whistle.