Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa won the third place match at the FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup Japan 2005 after a thrilling 3-2 win over Al Ittihad today. Two goals in the final minutes from Alvaro Saborio and Ronald Gomez, the first a penalty and the second a majestic free kick, turned the game on its head when Al Ittihad looked to be home and dry.
The Saudi Arabian side had Joseph-Desiré Job back in the line-up but had to bring in Osama Al Harbi for influential right back Ahmed Dukhi Al Dosari, who was serving a one-match suspension.
Hernán Medford made several changes to the team that lost to Liverpool, bringing in Reynaldo Parks, Juan Esquivel, Alonso Solís and Gerold Drummond, with the latter starting in favour of Ronald Gómez. The coach justified his changes afterwards claiming they were necessary for the system of play he wanted to use against the Asian champions.
The Tigers took the initiative in a slow opening period, with the Tico side content to try and hit their opponents on the break. Five minutes in, Adnan Falatah had a chance to break the deadlock but his shot came back off a defender. Minutes later the defender floated another ball into the area but Job narrowly failed to get his head to it.
Shortly afterwards Kallon tried his luck from distance, but Porras in the Saprissa goal watched it all the way and punched the effort clear. The Costa Ricans then launched a blistering counter attack down the right through Christian Bolaños, who drifted a ball into the box for Álvaro Saborio. Despite the attentions of his marker Al Harbi, the young striker managed to steer his shot home (0-1, 13').
Drummond came close to grabbing the second on two occasions, keeper Mabrouk Zaid denying him first time round before Al Harbi repeated the trick. The Saudi champions continued to probe the Tico defence and it was star striker Mohammed Kallon who finally unlocked the door. Noor laid off a long ball to the ex-Inter Milan striker in the box and although Porras pulled off a smart save from his drive, Kallon stroked home the loose ball to level things up (1-1, 28').
The man from Sierra Leone almost put his side ahead moments later when he sent a superb free kick from the edge of the area crashing against the crossbar. The Costa Ricans nearly hit back with a carbon copy of their opener but the Al Ittihad defence was quick to block Saborio's effort on goal. From the resulting corner Parks sent his shot high and wide.
Although the slow pace of the game remained unchanged in the second half, the Asian champions suddenly found themselves in the lead within eight minutes of the restart. Ronald Gonzalez upended Kallon in the box and Job shot the penalty just inside Porras' right-hand post, agonisingly out of reach of the keeper's despairing dive (2-1, 53').
Saborio came close to an equaliser from a corner but glanced his header just wide. Gonzalez then made amends for his penalty error when he cleared from under the bar after Porras had charged off his line in a vain attempt to deny Al Ittihad danger-men Noor and Kallon.
"It was a good game, and quite a spectacle with five goals in all. For us, however, it hasn't been a good night as we contrived to lose third place in the championship in the last five minutes," said a clearly disappointed Anghel Iordanescu. "We didn't start well, but we managed to get back into the game. At 2-1 we had chances to increase our lead and should have closed it out. Nonetheless, we'll learn from our mistakes, and hopefully we can do better if we return again next year," he added.
As the clock ticked down, the Purple Monster breathed new life into the game when Saborio slotted home from the penalty spot after Al Harbi had brought down Gomez (2-2, 85').
Striking partner Gomez then became the hero of the night, majestically slamming home a free-kick from the edge of the box after Hamad Al Montashari was shown the red card for a professional foul on Saborio (2-3, 89').
Saborio nearly added a fourth when he was put clean through once more but Zaid was quickly off his line to deny him.
"We're very satisfied as we've made history with this third-place finish. I have to congratulate my boys, who have done a great job. We played a great game and are even more delighted to have beaten a great opponent like Al Ittihad," said a euphoric Medford. "That third goal was without a doubt the most important in the history of Costa Rican football, and our great victory in Japan shows just how competitive we really are," he added.