Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl) Mon 10 December 2007
FIFA World Club Cup 2007 - Update 1
Having got the preamble out of the way, let's now catch up on the opening three matches of the 2007 FIFA World Club Cup.
Play-off Sepahan 3 - 1 Waitakere United December 7 2007 The competition got underway with a play-off between Sepahan of Iran and Waitakere United of New Zealand, the winner gaining a place in the quarter-finals against Urawa Red Diamonds. Sepahan were looking for a chance to exact revenge on Urawa who knocked the Iranian side out of the Asian Champions League Final, so a play-off win was essential if they wanted another bite of the cherry.
It turned into a walk in the park for Sepahan as they scored two goals inside the first four minutes through Emad Mohammed. The Waitakere defence proved more than generous with their lapses in concentration, and when goalkeeper Simon Eaddy's mistake allowed Abdul Wahab Abu Al Hail to score a third in the 47th minute, the game was effectively all over.
The New Zealanders, to their credit, continued to battle away and they effectively gained the support and sympathy of the Japanese fans for the remainder of the game. It may have been a key factor in helping Hadi Aghily get a goal back for Waitakere sixteen minutes from the end to make it 3-1, but that was to be the last goal of the game.
Sepahan had earned a comfortable victory, but next up for them would be that much-wanted rematch against Urawa Red Diamonds...
Quarter Finals Etoile Sportive du Sahel 1 - 0 Pachuca December 9 2007 The Tunisians of Sahel upset the form book with this surprise victory over their Mexican counterparts in Tokyo's National Stadium.
Pachuca were easily the more dominant side throughout and had a number of chances to take the lead in the first half. Juan Carlos Cacho headed against the crossbar early on with Gabriel Caballero's follow-up effort cleared off the line and that set the tone for the early action.
Etoile du Sahel got through to half time still on level terms, but the second half remained largely one-way traffic as Pachuca maintained their superiority. They had a goal disallowed for offside in the 73rd minute and it seemed only a matter of time before they'd get on that was valid, but it was Sahel that got the winner five minutes from the end.
The Ghanaian Moussa Narry tried a speculative shot from well outside the penalty area, and though not especially well hit, the resulting deflection off Pachuca's Leobardo Lopez was enough to see the ball bounce past wrong-footed keeper Miguel Calero and into the net.
When the final whistle went, it was the Tunisians that were the surprising winners and they now go through to play Boca Juniors in the semi-finals. For Pachuca, all that awaited was a plane journey home, and all too soon after they'd arrived at that.
Sepahan 1 - 3 Urawa Red Diamonds December 10 2007 The rematch: Sepahan v Urawa. Only a month earlier, the two sides had met in the Final of the AFC Champions League, and on that occasion Urawa had won 3-1 on aggregate over two legs. How that scoreline would come back to haunt them again...
Yuichiro Nagai was first out of the blocks when he put Urawa in front after 32 minutes, scoring from point-blank range when he met a low cross from Takahito Soma. Sepahan were stunned but undeterred as they entered the second half still only one goal behind.
Sadly for them, a second Urawa goal was not long in coming as Brazilian striker Washington scored neatly from a tight angle in the 54th minute. One of Sepahan's scorers from the Waitakere play-off, Hadi Aghily, was next to put the ball in the net but unfortunately for him it was at the wrong end of the pitch. It signalled the end of the Iranian team's chances, although a late goal from substitute Mahmoud Karimi did at least give them something to cheer.
Urawa Red Diamonds ended the game as 3-1 winners and they now face AC Milan in the semi-finals. As for Sepahan, it seems the flu bug that swept through their squad upon arrival in Japan may have made too much of an impact, although coach Luka Bonacic was quick to acknowledge Urawa as the better team on the night.
So with the quarter-finals out of the way, here's confirmation of the semi-final fixtures coming up over the next few days:
Semi Finals Etoile Sportive du Sahel v Boca Juniors (December 12) Urawa Red Diamonds v AC Milan (December 13)
We'll be back nearer the end of the week with match reports from both those games. Until then, Sayonara...