Corinthians overcome 'brave' Ahly in Club World Cup semis
Peruvian striker Paolo Guerrero made the most of a rare goal-scoring opportunity for the Brazilian outfit to score the winner after 30 minutes and set up a possible clash against European champions Chelsea, who face Mexico’s Monterrey in the other semi-final on Thursday.
Ahly were unlucky not to level the score after the break as Corinthians survived an onslaught.
The Egyptian giants were inspired by a superb display from veteran playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika, who was introduced after the break to revitalize an unproductive frontline that was let down by too many mis-placed passes in the first half.
Ahly, who finished third in the 2006 Club World Cup, will face either Monterrey or Chelsea in the third-place playoff on Sunday.
Both sides wasted one clear-cut chance apiece in a lively opening.
A volley by Corinthians forward Douglas narrowly missed the target after 10 minutes and Ahly replied at the other hand one minute later, with defensive midfielder Rami Rabia, who replaced injured skipper Hossam Ghaly, sending a header just wide following a free-kick.
Cautious Ahly then sat back, successfully closing down spaces and restricting a physical Corinthians side to some tame efforts, which were denied by timely interceptions from keeper Sherif Ekramy.
However, a defensive lapse allowed Corinthians to take the lead after 30 minutes when Guerrero escaped the attention of marker Wael Gomaa at the far post to neatly head a left-wing cross past Ekramy and into the far corner.
Inaccurate passes hampered Ahly’s efforts to equalise before the break as Corinthians held firm.
Midfield maestro Abou-Treika solved that problem, however, when he replaced the ineffective Abdallah El-Saied in the second half.
His all-round display and defence-splitting passes gave Ahly the upper hand in a period they dominated, with Corinthians defending in numbers to keep their advantage intact.
One of his trademark through balls released right-back Ahmed Fathi six minutes past the hour mark but the latter’s subsequent shot from a tight angle hit the side netting.
Another long ball from Abou-Treika found the unmarked El-Sayed Hamdi, who failed to control the ball with the goal at his mercy as another golden opportunity went begging.
Ahly had to make an unscripted substitution when Ekramy sustained a hamstring injury to make way for stand-in guardian Mahmoud Aboul-Saoud, but it had little impact as Corinthians seemed content to sit back and defend their slender lead.
They laid siege to Corinthians area in the latter stages but could only send some long-range shots which did not trouble the keeper as the Brazilians held out for a hard-fought win.