An awesome Khalid Eisa blocked the final spot kick of Enzo Perez as the UAE club Al Ain thumped South American giants River Plate 5-4 on penalties to create history and reach the Fifa Club World Cup final to be played on Saturday.
In the semifinal held at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, it was 2-2 after extra time with goals from Marcus Berg, Caio being cancelled by River Plate striker Santos Borre. It was Al Ain’s second extra time and spot kicks in three matches, and the ‘Boss’ triumphed it all.
In penalties, Caio, Tsukasa Shiotani, Bandar Al Ahbabi, Amer Abdulrahman and Rayan Yaslem were on target whereas Ignacio Scocco, Juan Quintero, Lucas Pratto and Santos Borre scored for River. Al Ain thus become only the second Asian club to reach the tournament final after Kashima Antlers in 2016. The UAE side will now meet the winner of Real Madrid versus Kashima match to be played on Wednesday.
Al Ain players had been on the field for nearly three match hours but were up for every challenge thrown by a fresh River Plate side. Astonishingly, the ‘Boss’ even dictated the game against the Copa Libertadores champions.
The Al Ain fans’ joy knew no bounds when their team went ahead through a pure moment of magic. In only the third minute, striker Marcus Berg softly head flicked a sharp corner as the ball dipped between the legs of keeper Franco Armani into the goal.
It was a goal that woke up the mighty club from Buenos Aires.
Striker Lucas Pratto darted from right but his effort was parried away by keeper Khalid Eisa.
However, striker Borre’s long-rang shot from left flank dipped past defenders into the back of the net. After their first goal in 11 minutes, the visitors took just five more to score the second one.
It was once again Borre who scored past Eisa from a run from right.
Even as Al Ain were down by a goal, their players continued to push forward through the likes of Berg, Caio, Hussein Elshahat and Tongo Doumbia.
Midfielder Mohamed Abdulrahman and Ahmed Barman kept churning deliveries for the strikers as Al Ain kept hunting for a goal.
And just before the end of the first half, Al Ain scored but the goal was ruled offside.
Nevertheless, it was a spell of beautiful football where Berg curled a through pass inside the box for Elshahat and the Egyptian deposited the ball into corner of the goal. Al Ain walked off a goal down but with heads held high.
After the break, Al Ain pushed further and drew level through a Caio special in the 51th minute.
The winger was fed by Tsukasa Shiotani. Caio dribbled past Jonatan Maidana and smashed the ball past the keeper with a sensational finish.
Again River put pressure on the home team. Twice Borre was on target, but Eisa came up with breathtaking saves. Later, Eisa flew to his right to punch out Juan Quintero’s long-range shot.
In 68th minute, River had a golden chance as Ismail brought down Milton Casco. The referee awarded a spot kick but Gonzalo Martinez crashed the ball into the crossbar. Along with Eisa’s heroics, the rub of the green was also going Al Ain’s way.
In last 20 minutes, coach Zoran Mamic introduced Rayan Yaslem and Bandar Al Ahbabi. The last spell of the match was particularly impressive as Al Ain set the pace.
At the stroke of 90 minutes, Al Ain would have got the winner, but Caio took few seconds more in front of River box as he missed the golden chance.
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