Palmeiras add to Egyptian woes with Fifa Club World Cup win over Al Ahly

Brazilians seal 2-0 semi-final win at Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi

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Egyptian football supporters suffered a second blow in a matter of days after Al Ahly were knocked out of the Fifa Club World Cup at the hands of Palmeiras.

Raphael Veiga and Dudu struck the goals which sent the Brazilian side through to Saturday's final, where they will play the winners of Wednesday's second semi-final between Al Hilal and Chelsea.

The side from Sao Paulo were good value for the victory against the champions of Africa, who were showing signs of both physical and mental fatigue after a trying few nights.

While it meant the side who have won each of the past two Copa Libertadores achieved their main goal, namely a place in the final, it also avenged one other issue. Ahly had beaten Palmeiras to third place at last year's Club World Cup in Qatar.

After their win against Monterrey in the previous round, Ahly’s goalscorer Mohamed Hany had said, “we felt that we were playing at home” thanks to their wall of red supporters at the ground. As might have been expected given the large Egyptian community in the UAE.

The Ahlawy remained in good voice against Palmeiras, but they were unquestionably in the minority this time.

Two-thirds of the crowd at Al Nahyan Stadium were clad in the green and white of the side from Sao Paulo. From well over an hour before kick-off, they were a bouncing, raucous mass.

For the opening throes of the game, the stands were a far more captivating spectacle than the action on the pitch. Every row was bouncing with emotion.

By contrast, the two sets of players were cool and strategic. Ahly lacked some of the zip they had shown in the game against the Mexican side.

That was understandable given that game had been just three days earlier, while two of their starting XI were fresh off the plane for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Amr El Solia started in midfield for Egypt in the Afcon final, which ended in penalty shoot-out heartache against Senegal on Sunday, and did the same against Palmeiras two nights later.

Even with their energy levels diminished, they enjoyed a more or less equal share of possession to Palmeiras in the first phase. Chances, though, were few.

It was the Brazilian outfit who edged ahead, though, with half-time nearing. The only clear opening of the half came about after some ponderous defending by Yasser Ibrahim, the Ahly right-back.

Once possession was given up, the Palmeiras attack was rapid and incisive. A clever flick from Dudu sent Veiga pacing towards the area, and the attacking midfielder shot past Ali Lotfy in the Ahly goal.

The game was as good as done when Palmeiras doubled their lead after the interval following another high-speed counter attack. It culminated with Dudu hurtling unchallenged from halfway, down the inside right channel, and lashing a shot into the roof of Lotfy’s net.

To their credit, Ahly refused to bow. They enjoyed their best chances once they were 2-0 down, and had the ball in the goal in the 72nd minute when Mohamed Sharif, a second-half substitute, shot into an empty net after loose goalkeeping from Weverton.

It was chalked off, though, after a video review ruled Sharif had been offside when the initial shot was taken.

Ahly’s resistance was too little, too late, and their challenge ended in indignity when their captain Ahmed Ashraf was sent off, again after the use of technology.

Ashraf, another of Ahly’s recently-arrived contingent of Egypt national team players, upended Rony, the Palmeiras striker. After reverting to the pitchside monitor, referee Clement Turpin deemed it dangerous play worthy of a red card.

Updated: February 09, 2022, 6:33 AM
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