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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Al-Ahly fell at the semifinal stage of the FIFA Club World Cup for the fourth successive year on Monday, going down 2-0 to Fluminense of Brazil in Jeddah.
However, it was a game that the Egyptians will know could have gone very differently. A second-half penalty, converted by Jhon Arias, proved to be the difference between the two teams before a last-minute goal from John Kennedy sealed the victory.
The result was not only a disappointment to the tens of thousands of red-shirted fans inside King Abdullah Sports City, but it also means that Africa’s wait for a finalist has now reached a decade. It has to be said, though, that Al-Ahly only have themselves to blame following their wastefulness in front of goal.
It will not be much of a consolation for the Cairo club — who beat Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad 3-1 in the same arena three days previously — that this was an entertaining encounter.
The scoreline may have been goalless at the break but that was a surprise given that both teams tried to attack at every opportunity, with the Egyptians having the best chances.
It could have been 1-1 inside the first 10 minutes. Al-Ahly almost took the lead in the sixth minute as Percy Tau’s long-range effort took a deflection and ended up bouncing on the top of the net.
Three minutes later the Brazilians should have been ahead as the Al-Ahly defense left Arias unmarked at the back post as a Keno cross came in from the left. They were greatly relieved when the Colombian volleyed against the edge of the woodwork from close range.
The 11-time African champions then came within a whisker of taking the lead. From a flicked-on header, the ball bounced around the area and Mahmoud Kahraba was just about to bundle the ball across the goalline when he was blocked by a fine Samuel Xavier tackle.
Then Fluminense hit the woodwork again, and again it was from the boot of Arias, who fired against the post from a low right-sided corner pulled back toward the edge of the area.
It was then the turn of Al-Ahly’s players to have their heads in their hands. Hussein El-Shahat’s shot was blocked but the ball looped up to the unmarked Kahraba. However, despite being completely unmarked at the edge of the six-yard box, the forward headed too close to Fabio who was able to stick out a hand. It was a fine save but the back of the net should have been bulging.
Al-Ahly may have had the best of the first half but Fluminense came close soon after the restart as German Cano’s fierce drive from the right side flew just past the opposite post. It signaled the start of a sustained period of pressure from the South Americans.
But then, just after the hour, Al-Ahly sprang forward on the counter. Fabio was called into action again, diving to his left to save a shot from El-Shahat that was heading for the bottom corner.
Shortly after, the Rio team were awarded a penalty as former Real Madrid man Marcelo was adjudged to have been brought down by Tau just inside the area. Up stepped Arias to tuck his shot away, past the diving Mohamed El-Shenawy.
Al-Ahly should have leveled almost immediately. A long ball from El-Shahat found Tau unmarked in the area but with just the goalkeeper to beat, he headed straight at a relieved Fabio. The 43-year-old then made another crucial save, getting down quickly to save a shot from substitute Taher Mohamed.
Fluminense looked fairly comfortable in the final 10 minutes and sealed the win in the 90th minute as Kennedy fired home a low shot from the edge of the area.
The South Americans will now play in the final against either Urawa Reds of Japan or European Champions Manchester City. Al-Ahly will, once again, watch from the sidelines.
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