2022 FIFA Club World Cup, Semifinals
  • Pedro (20', 90'+1')
  • Gerson (45'+8')
  • Salem Al-Dawsari (4' PEN, 45'+9' PEN)
  • Luciano Vietto (70')

Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal stun Flamengo to reach Club World Cup final

Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal stunned 10-man Flamengo to reach Club World Cup final with a 3-2 victory on Tuesday thanks to two penalties from Salem Al Dawsari and a close-range strike from Luciano Vietto.

Al Dawsari opened the scoring from the spot after three minutes and while Pedro levelled for the Brazilians, their hopes were hit when Gerson conceded a penalty and was sent off in first-half stoppage time.

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That allowed Al Dawsari to grab his second and Vietto added a third after the break, ensuring Pedro's late goal for Flamengo was just a consolation.

Al Hilal, the first Saudi side to reach the Club World Cup final, will face the winners of Real Madrid's semifinal against Al Ahly on Wednesday in Rabat.

"Flamengo was surprised by our quality and by how prepared we were, mentally and strategically," Al Hilal coach Ramon Diaz told a news conference.

"Flamengo didn't expect that we would change our scheme from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-1-1, with Luciano Vietto as an attacking midfielder.

"Vietto ghosted behind their holding midfielders who we identified were not good on challenges. And he was brilliant, suffering both penalties and scoring a great goal for us."

On a windy and chilly night at a half-empty Ibn Batouta stadium, Flamengo's Portuguese coach Vitor Pereira sprung a surprise, leaving former Atletico Madrid fullback Filipe Luis on the bench.

He also left out Uruguay's Guillermo Varela, opting for a younger and more attack-oriented fullback duo.

It was Varela's replacement, right back Matheuzinho, who changed the course of the game in the third minute, when he went too forcefully into a challenge on Vietto inside the box and the referee immediately pointed to the spot.

Al-Dawsari slotted it home, just out of the reach goalkeeper Santos.

Flamengo went on the attack and wasted a golden opportunity in the 15th minute when Gerson, in a great position to score inside the area, tried to win a penalty instead of shooting.

The referee did not fall for it and showed a yellow card to the Flamengo midfielder for simulation.

But Pedro equalised four minutes later, firing home with a first-time strike from close-range from a Matheuzinho assist.

Flamengo, desperate to avoid becoming only the fourth Brazilian side to lose a Club World Cup semifinal, lost their cool and were shown four yellow cards in the first half.

The fourth, and Gerson's second, proved decisive as it reduced them to 10 men.

It came after a VAR check right on half-time, as the referee spotted on the pitch-side monitor that the former Marseille midfielder had stamped on Vietto's ankle inside the box.

Al-Dawsari didn't pass up the opportunity, slotting his spot-kick to left of the keeper, who had guessed the wrong way.

With Flamengo reduced to 10 men for the entire second half, Al Hilal controlled the tempo and eventually scored the third, when Al Dawsari returned the favour to Vietto, putting the ball on a plate for the Argentinian to score with a point-blank strike.

Pedro's close-range range effort in added time was too little to late for Flamengo, who became only the sixth Copa Libertadores champions not to advance to the final.

Flamengo coach Pereira blamed the officiating for this side's surprise loss.

"We were ready to play Al Hilal but were not ready for a refereeing that was not up to the standards of the competition," he said.

"There was a very big lack of criteria, it was provocative refereeing and if it weren't for the personality of our players, I'm convinced that we would end the game with more red cards."

Pereira suggested that the referee didn't take a stand to stop Al Hilal players milking the clock and had different criteria for bookings. Flamengo were shown three yellow cards in the second half, in addition to their four in the first, while Al Hilal received only three bookings over the 90 minutes.

"He was permissive with one stop after the other," Pereira said.

"Al Hilal's only goal attempts in the first-half were the penalties. Therefore, if the match ended 11 against 11, we were the better side.

"We took the actions but were unable to translate it into goals. In the second half, with one less, it wasn't apathy, it's difficult to play down one man."