TANGIER: Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal stunned 10-man Flamengo to reach the Club World Cup final with a 3-2 victory over the South American champions on Tuesday thanks to two penalties from Salem Al Dawsari and a close-range strike from Luciano Vietto.
Al Dawsari opened the scoring from the spot after three minutes and while Pedro levelled for the Brazilians, their hopes were hit when Gerson conceded a penalty and was sent off in first-half stoppage time.
That allowed Al Dawsari to grab his second and Vietto added a third after the break, ensuring Pedro’s late goal for Flamengo was just a consolation.
Al Hilal, the first Saudi side to reach the Club World Cup final, will face the winners of Real Madrid’s semi-final against Al Ahly late on Wednesday in Rabat.
Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of the Kingdom Holding Co, will award a one million riyals ($266,500) bonus to each player from Al Hilal.
Prince Alwaleed also announced on social media that he will gift the players a similar amount if they also manage to win the final on Saturday.
In addition, Saudi sports channel SSC reported that each player will get 500,000 riyals from the country’s minister of sports for the Flamengo victory.
On a windy and chilly night at a half-empty Ibn Batouta stadium, right back Matheuzinho changed the course of the game in the third minute, when he went too forcefully into a challenge on Vietto inside the box and the referee immediately pointed to the spot.
Al-Dawsari slotted it home, just out of the reach of goalkeeper Santos.Pedro equalised four minutes later, firing home with a first-time strike from close-range from a Matheuzinho assist.
Flamengo, desperate to avoid becoming only the fourth Brazilian side to lose a Club World Cup semi-final, lost their cool and were shown four yellow cards in the first half.
The fourth, and Gerson’s second, proved decisive as it reduced them to 10 men.
It came after a VAR check right on halftime, as the referee spotted on the pitch-side monitor that the former Olympique de Marseille midfielder had stamped on Viettos ankle inside the box.
Al-Dawsari didn’t pass up the opportunity, slotting his spot-kick to left of the keeper, who had guessed the wrong way.
With Flamengo reduced to 10 men for the entire second half, Al Hilal controlled the tempo and eventually scored the third, when Al Dawsari returned the favour to Vietto, putting the ball on a plate for the Argentinian to score with a point-blank strike.
Pedro’s close-range range effort in added time was too little to late for Flamengo, who became only the sixth Copa Libertadores champions not to advance to the final.
Flamengo manager Vitor Pereira blamed his side’s loss on the refereeing, which according to the Portuguese manager, was one sided.
“We were ready to play Al Hilal but were not ready for a refereeing that was not up to the standards of the competition,” Pereira told a news conference at Tangier on Tuesday.
“There was a very big lack of criteria, it was provocative refereeing and if it weren’t for the personality of our players, I’m convinced that we would end the game with more red cards.”
Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2023
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