Man City sweep past Urawa Reds to move Pep Guardiola a step closer to history

Spanish coach aims to clinch record fourth Club World Cup after comfortable 3-0 victory over Japanese side

Powered by automated translation

If Pep Guardiola covets the Fifa Club World Cup to “complete the circle” of trophies mined at Manchester City, then he is one match from making his Blue Moon a full one.

Tournament debutants, the Spaniard’s all-conquering side are hardly wet behind the ears, what with the treble not long since complete and the club perched as the dominant force in English football for much of the past six years.

A first Uefa Champions League, clinched in June, brought with it this inaugural Club World Cup, where City parachuted in at the semi-final stage in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night.

At a politely expectant King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Guardiola’s men met Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan, the reigning Asian champions, without arguably the two players everyone had come to see.

Kevin De Bruyne, a surprise participant in Monday training, and Erling Haaland, were not deemed fit enough for even a place on the bench.

How City could have done with them, initially at least. With Jack Grealish and Phil Foden stationed on opposite flanks, Bernardo Silva and Matheus Nunes were supposedly to carry the thrust through the middle.

However, City struggled to break down their Urawa rivals. Rodri flashed a couple of shots wide from range, Silva curled over from the edge of the area, while Nunes did force a fine, point-blank save from Shusaku Nishikawa in the Urawa goal. Foden, too, tested Nishikawa, although the shot was more speculative than certain.

In fact, the biggest cheer of the opening 45 minutes came when Haaland, sitting on the bench but part of the non-matchday squad, was shown on the big screen, then De Bruyne. Both acknowledged the crowd with a smile and a wave. Haaland, as much a goal guarantor as you can get, looked to have caught the Saudi sun.

Then, just as the clock clicked into injury-time, Silva slid Nunes down the right – the one time City truly got in behind in the first half – and they scored.

Well, not so much City, as Urawa defender Marius Hoibraten. Attempting to cut out the cross, the scrambling Norwegian centre-back inadvertently sent the ball into his own net. Nishikawa couldn’t do anything about it.

Urawa couldn’t, in general. Maciej Skorza’s side, who last Friday defeated Concacaf champions Club Leon to set up the showdown with City, offered next-to-nothing going forward. A few hairy moments from Ederson gave them glimpses of goal, granted, but they were all-too fleeting.

Not that their supporters seemed to mind. They brought the noise on Tuesday, the couple of hundred all crammed behind one of the goals bouncing and clapping away, led throughout by their Duracell drummer.

Not long into the second half, City were very much beating to their own tune. Captain Kyle Walker’s delicious through ball sent Mateo Kovacic away, and the Croat finished high into the Urawa net.

Unlike his teammates, Kovacic knows a thing or two about the Club World Cup: he has tasted success twice before, with Real Madrid and Chelsea. The latter, giving him the opportunity to become the first player to capture the title with three different clubs – if City triumph in Jeddah – came last year, in Abu Dhabi.

Two goals up, City went searching for more. Nunes headed, somehow, off target when unmarked. It didn't matter, though, since soon after Silva added a third. Nunes’ powerful strike was repelled by Nishikawa, the rebound fell to the Portuguese, whose shot nicked off a defender and crept inside Urawa's near post.

A place in the Friday’s final more or less secure with just more than an hour gone, Guardiola rang the changes. This was, after all, City’s sixth match in 16 days. Two of the substitutes, Oscar Bobb and Julian Alvarez, were especially lively.

All in all, it was a remarkably comfortable evening’s work for City, who move to within a match of yet more history. Guardiola, also. See off South American champions Fluminense in the showpiece, and City not only add the Club World Cup to an already stacked cabinet, but Guardiola will become the first manager to lift the global title four times.

The other three were collected with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the celebrated midfielder leaving his boyhood club with practically every major trophy in his locker, that particular circle complete.

As Guardiola declared before Urawa, this one would round off City’s haul as well.

Updated: December 19, 2023, 8:16 PM