City cruise to first Club World Cup triumph

Published December 24, 2023
Manchester City captain Kyle Walker lifts the trophy as team-mates celebrate after their victory in the FIFA Club World Cup final against Fluminense at the King Abdullah Sports City.—Reuters
Manchester City captain Kyle Walker lifts the trophy as team-mates celebrate after their victory in the FIFA Club World Cup final against Fluminense at the King Abdullah Sports City.—Reuters

JEDDAH: Julian Alvarez scored the fastest-ever goal in a Club World Cup final as Manc­hester City thrashed Brazilian side Fluminense 4-0 on Friday to cap a remarkable year by capturing their fifth trophy of 2023.

City’s victory extended Euro­pean clubs’ domination of the competition since 2012 and was never in doubt once Julian Alvarez ope­ned the scoring inside the first minute.

Nino’s first-half own goal realistically ended the Brazilians’ dreams of an upset, before

Phil Foden and Alvarez rounded off the scoring in the final 20 minutes.

Pep Guardiola’s team, who were missing injured striker Erling Ha­aland at the global tournament, had already captured the FA Cup, Premier League, Champions Lea­gue and UEFA Super Cup this year.

The Spaniard hinted that his time at the club might be coming to an end when he said “the job was done” and “there was nothing else to win” after eight years at the helm.

“I have the feeling we’ve closed a chapter. We’ve already won all the titles,” Guardiola told a news conference. “There’s nothing left to win. I have the feeling the job is done, is over.”

Guardiola, who arrived at City in 2016, claimed his 16th title with the club. He added he wanted to write a new chapter with the team where he has 18 months left on his contract.

“Now it’s Christmas time, buy another book and start to write it again. The last eight years it’s over,” he said. “When I close the cha­pter it’s for eight years of incredible work behind the scenes. Today we celebrate on the plane, to­m­orrow rest. The players out there are still hungry and motivated. It’s a beautiful, beautiful day.”

Captain Kyle Walker added: “To win these five trophies — for me, the five biggest prizes available to us — is incredible. I am so proud to have been a part of this and I can honestly say it’s an honour to play alongside these players; I couldn’t ask for better team mates It’s really, really hard to win consistently, so to be sat here today having won the (five titles) is really special and a huge achievement.”

Alvarez had the travelling City fans cheering 40 seconds after kick off. Keeper Fabio did well to push Nathan Ake’s long shot off the post but Alvarez was quick to the rebound, stooping to his hands and knees to chest it home.

At just 23, the Argentine added to his remarkable haul of silverware that includes the World Cup and Copa America at international level, the Copa Libertadores during his time at River Plate, plus Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and UEFA Super Cup medals during just over a year at City.

Nino scored an own goal in the 27th minute, deflecting a shot from Foden sideways into the net.

Foden put the game away in the 72nd minute when he slid to poke in a hard cross across the box from Alvarez.

Alvarez completed his brace in the 88th with a strike from just ins­ide the box, prompting delig­hted City fans to break into “Blue Moon.”

The victory made Guardiola the first manager to guide three different clubs to Club World Cup titles, winning with Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, then Bayern Munich in 2013.

City’s poor Premier League form before flying out to Saudi Arabia had raised Fluminense hopes that Guardiola’s men could be vulnerable.

But the growing chasm between Europe’s elite clubs and the rest of the world thanks to huge financial imbalances in the global game was instead exposed.

European clubs have won 22 consecutive games at the Club World Cup.

“We faced a City which have been the best team in the world for the last five years and they know how to make the most of the opportunities they create,” Fluminense manager Fernando Diniz told Brazilian TV Globo. “They are always spot on, scored really early and they punished us for the mistakes we made. We have to be proud for our incredible year and to have paved the road that led us here. It was an amazing ride and there is nothing to be ashamed of.”

The one cloud on City’s evening was an apparent knee injury to Rod­ri, who crumpled to the pitch when Alexsander caught him by the ankle. Rodri immediately grab­bed the back of his knee. After rece­i­ving treatment, he briefly returned to the game before going down again and left the pitch in agony.

Rodri was presented with the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament, and was able to walk across the presentation stage to receive his trophy. City captain Walker claimed the Silver Ball.

The 2025 tournament will feature an expanded 32-team format in the United States.

Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2023

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