Lukaku Ends Drought As Chelsea Inch Closer To First World Club Trophy

Chelsea players celebrate their opening goal during the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup semi-final football match between Saudi’s Al-Hilal and England’s Chelsea at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, on February 9, 2022. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP



Romelu Lukaku scored a much-needed goal as Chelsea beat Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal 1-0 on Wednesday to advance to the Club World Cup final against South American champions Palmeiras. 

Chelsea’s club-record signing had failed to score in five games before arriving in Abu Dhabi, and the Blues are looking for the 28-year-old to find his best form in the second half of the season.

The Belgium international swept in from close range on 33 minutes after a defensive lapse to send Chelsea through to Saturday’s final, the second in three years between English and Brazilian teams.

Chelsea can join Manchester United and Liverpool as the third English side to win the Club World Cup, having finished as runners-up to Corinthians on their first appearance in 2012.

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Hilal’s forward Odion Ighalo (R) vies for the ball with Chelsea’s defender Andreas Christensen during the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup semi-final football match between Saudi’s Al-Hilal and England’s Chelsea at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, on February 9, 2022.
Giuseppe CACACE / AFP


They may yet have coach Thomas Tuchel in the dugout come the weekend, with the German still isolating back home after testing positive for Covid-19.

Al Hilal, coached by former Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim, will contest the third-place play-off against Egypt’s Al Ahly as Chelsea’s win made it 12 from 12 for Europe against Asian clubs in the tournament.

Despite the presence of former Manchester United and Watford forward Odion Ighalo alongside ex-Porto striker Moussa Marega in attack, Al Hilal struggled initially to test Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal.

The Spaniard kept his place in the line-up despite the return of Edouard Mendy following his Africa Cup of Nations triumph with Senegal.

Hakim Ziyech fired a shot narrowly over and Lukaku failed to make proper contact with Cesar Azpilicueta’s low ball across goal, but there was no shortage of service for the Belgian.

He held off a defender only to strike straight at Abdullah Al-Mayouf, but Lukaku was presented with the simplest of chances when Yasir Al-Shahrani’s failed clearance left him to turn in the opener.

Kai Havertz, whose cross led to Lukaku’s goal, clipped an effort against the outside of the post after jinking into the area early in the second half.

Chelsea’s forward Romelu Lukaku (C) reacts after scoring the opening goal during the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup semi-final football match between Saudi’s Al-Hilal and England’s Chelsea at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, on February 9, 2022. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP


Ziyech then drew a good stop from Al-Mayouf before Al Hilal, who put six past Al Jazira in the previous round, belatedly sparked into life around the hour.

Arrizabalaga raced off his line to block from Marega and then pulled off a sensational one-handed save, flying to his left to keep out Mohamed Kanno’s curling attempt from 20 metres.

Matheus Pereira tormented Chelsea on his last outing against them while at West Brom last season, but the Brazilian’s fizzing effort into the side-netting was the last glimmer of hope for the record four-time Asian Champions League winners.


UAE To Host Next Club World Cup In Early 2022


The United Arab Emirates will host the next Club World Cup early in 2022, FIFA president Gianni Infantino announced on Wednesday.

The latest edition of the tournament — which features the champions of the six continental confederations along with the top team in the host nation — was due to be played at the end of this year in Japan before it pulled out as host because of the pandemic.

The Club World Cup is usually played in December but this is the second successive year in which it has been delayed — the 2020 edition in Qatar was played in February this year.

“The Club World Cup will be played in early 2022. There are no precise dates yet, but the host will be the United Arab Emirates,” Infantino said at a press conference following a FIFA Council meeting.

A February start date seems most likely given the Africa Cup of Nations will be staged in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6.

Chelsea will be Europe’s representative after winning last season’s UEFA Champions League, while Al Ahly of Egypt are also confirmed participants.

South America will be represented by either Palmeiras or Flamengo, with the Brazilian duo meeting in next month’s Copa Libertadores final.

Bayern Munich won the most recent edition of the Club World Cup, which has been held in the UAE on four previous occasions, most recently in 2018 when Real Madrid were the winners.

A lucrative, revamped 24-team Club World Cup, including eight sides from Europe, was due to be played in China this year before the pandemic put that project on hold.

Liverpool Beat Flamengo To Win Club World Cup

Liverpool’s players lift the trophy following the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup Final football match between England’s Liverpool and Brazil’s Flamengo at the Khalifa International Stadium in the Qatari capital Doha on December 21, 2019. KARIM JAAFAR / AFP



Roberto Firmino was again the hero for Liverpool as the forward’s extra-time goal allowed Jurgen Klopp’s side to beat Flamengo 1-0 in the Club World Cup final in Doha on Saturday and lift the trophy for the first time.

Firmino was picked out by Sadio Mane and waited for goalkeeper Diego Alves to commit before slotting low into the net in the 99th minute of an absorbing contest at the Khalifa International Stadium.

It was the moment that finally punctured the hopes of the Brazilian side and their vibrant support, after Liverpool had been denied a penalty by VAR at the end of normal time.

The Qatari referee initially gave a spot-kick for a foul on Mane by Rafinha on the way into the box, but changed his mind following a lengthy review, forcing the contest into an extra 30 minutes.

Still, the European champions had enough to come out on top, with Firmino repeating his semi-final heroics, when he scored an injury-time goal to secure victory against Monterrey of Mexico.

The win allows Liverpool to complete a fabulous year with a third piece of silverware to go with the Champions League and UEFA Supercup.

Having earned the title of world champions, if Klopp’s team can see out their huge lead at the top of the Premier League this season, they will have a case to be remembered as the finest side in the illustrious history of the club.

Flamengo had been hoping to repeat their win over Liverpool in the old Intercontinental Cup back in 1981 and thereby become the first non-European winners of the Club World Cup since fellow Brazilians Corinthians beat Chelsea in 2012.

They fell short, but they certainly gave the Premier League leaders a game in what was their last outing of a long season.

– Van Dijk back, Firmino hits post –

Klopp had welcomed back Virgil van Dijk after the inspirational Dutchman sat out Wednesday’s semi-final due to illness.

That allowed skipper Jordan Henderson to return to his usual midfield berth, while Firmino, Mane and Trent Alexander-Arnold were all recalled after starting on the bench against the Mexicans.

Firmino, Naby Keita and Alexander-Arnold all came close for Liverpool in the first six minutes as they came flying out of the traps.

Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino (R) shoots to score during the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup Final football match between England’s Liverpool and Brazil’s Flamengo at the Khalifa International Stadium in the Qatari capital Doha on December 21, 2019. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP



Fielding the same team that started their semi-final win over Al Hilal, the Brazilian and South American champions gradually settled into the game, spurred on by their raucous travelling support.

Bruno Henrique, the star of their semi-final victory, had their best opportunity in the first half, coming inside from the left to meet a long ball forward by goalkeeper Alves before seeing his shot deflected past.

The Rio giants, with veteran Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus on the touchline, matched the European champions for much of the first half but were lucky not to fall behind at the beginning of the second period.

Less than two minutes after the restart, Firmino controlled Henderson’s ball forward and sent a shot off the inside of the post before seeing it rebound away.

However, Liverpool also needed goalkeeper Alisson to come to the rescue with a fine stop from a Gabriel Barbosa strike, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then went off injured as extra time began to loom.

Then Alves stretched high to his left to tip a net-bound Henderson shot from 25 yards over the bar before, with the match in injury time, the English side thought they had a penalty for Rafinha’s tackle on Mane.

However, referee Abdulrahman Al Jassim dramatically cancelled the decision after coming across to review the footage on a pitchside monitor.

Liverpool finally found a way through nine minutes into the first half of extra time though, with Mane finding Firmino after being pushed wide of goal by Rafinha.

Firmino made no mistake, and Flamengo were unable to respond.


Club World Cup: Liverpool, Flamengo Fight Into Extra Time

Flamengo’s defender Rafinha (L) tackles Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane during the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup Final football match between England’s Liverpool and Brazil’s Flamengo at the Khalifa International Stadium in the Qatari capital Doha on December 21, 2019. KARIM JAAFAR / AFP



The Club World Cup final between Liverpool and Flamengo in Doha on Saturday went into extra time after finishing 0-0 at the end of 90 minutes.

Looking to lift the trophy for the first time, Liverpool thought they had won a penalty in stoppage time at the end of the game after Sadio Mane appeared to have been caught on his way into the box while taking a shot.

However, the Qatari referee overturned the decision after a VAR review.

Liverpool also had the best chances before that at the Khalifa International Stadium, with Roberto Firmino hitting a post and Jordan Henderson being denied by a brilliant Diego Alves save.


Returning Bale Rescues Real Madrid From Al Jazira Upset

Real Madrid’s Welsh forward Gareth Bale (C) celebrates after scoring during the FIFA Club World Cup semi-final match in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi on December 13, 2017.


Gareth Bale came off the bench to book Real Madrid’s place in the Club World Cup final as the European champions recovered from the shock of going behind to beat Emirati champions Al Jazira 2-1 on Wednesday.

Despite dominating throughout, Madrid trailed at half-time to Romarinho’s opener in a match also marred by use of the video assistant referee (VAR) that ruled out a goal for both sides.

Madrid’s pressure finally paid off 10 minutes into the second half when Cristiano Ronaldo levelled before Bale broke Al Jazira’s resistence with his first touch eight minutes from time.

“It’s great to get the goal,” Bale told Real Madrid TV. “When you come on you want to make an impact, but the most important thing is to win and be in the final.”

Gareth Bale and  Cristiano Ronaldo celebrate   Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP

Real will go for their fifth trophy of the year when they face Brazilian side Gremio on Saturday.

Bale was making only his second substitute appearance since September due to a series of muscle injuries.

But he showed what Madrid have been missing for most of the season with a calm finish after replacing the profligate Karim Benzema.

“I need to be patient, I’ve had some problems and it takes time. I need to listen to my body,” said the Welshman.

Al Jazira, only invited to the competition as champions of the host country, enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame at the break after a remarkable first 45 minutes.

Madrid scored five in the first half against Sevilla on Saturday and could easily have had another handful but for some exceptional goalkeeping from Ali Khaseif.

The Al Jazira captain made an incredible stop to turn a deflected Ronaldo header onto the bar then got down well to parry efforts from Luka Modric and Karim Benzema.

Real Madrid’s Welsh forward Gareth Bale (L) is congratulated after scoring by teammates Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcelo and Sergio Asensio during the FIFA Club World Cup semi-final match in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi on December 13, 2017. GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP

VAR chaos

Benzema also had a goal ruled out for a push by Ronaldo in the build-up, but Madrid thought they had finally gone ahead when Casemiro’s header deflected off an Al Jazira head and looped over Khaseif.

However, after a four-minute delay for the VAR referral, Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci disallowed the goal due to Benzema being in an offside position despite the fact the Frenchman was arguably not interfering with play.

“I don’t like it to be honest,” added Bale on the use of VAR.

“Obviously they are going to try it out. For me, football is better without it but it is other people who make the decisions.”

In total Madrid had 18 shots on goal in the first half, but were shocked four minutes before the break when the hosts caught the Real defence cold on the counter-attack.

A poor clearance from Nacho gifted away possession inside the Madrid half and Romarinho showed great composure to cut inside and curl his shot inside Keylor Navas’ far post.

Al-Jazira’s Brazilian forward Romarinho (R) is congratulated by teammates after scoring during the FIFA Club World Cup semi-final match in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi on December 13, 2017. Romarinho opened the scoring for his side before the end of the first half. GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP


A monumental upset looked on when Al Jazira had the ball in the net for a second time two minutes into the second half.

However, this time VAR came to Madrid’s rescue as Mbark Boussoufa was offside by the finest of margins before slotting home.

Zinedine Zidane’s men grabbed that let-off gratefully and were level eight minutes later when Ronaldo was played in by Modric and smashed a shot past Khaled Al Senaani, who had replaced the injured Khaseif moments earlier.

Madrid continued to lay seige to the Al Jazira goal, but the misfiring Benzema shot straight at Al Senaani then hit the post with two other glorious chances.

Benzema was eventually replaced by Bale, who an instant impact as he slotted home Lucas Vazquez’s cutback to Real’s relief.


Real Madrid Eye Third Club World Cup Title


Defending champions Real Madrid will play the winner of a play-off between the Asian champions and Auckland City/Al Jazira in the semi-final of the FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, it was announced Monday.

Emirati champions Al Jazira and OFC Champions League winners Auckland City face each other in the opening game, the winners then play in the second round with Mexico’s Pachuca and the CAF and AFC champions.

Real Madrid, seeking a record-equalling third title, and the Copa Libertadores champions will join the competition from the semi-final stage of the seven-club competition that runs from December 6-16.


Acting FIFA President Issa Hayatou Arrives In Zurich

HayatouThe President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Issa Hayatou arrived at the Home of FIFA in Zurich on Thursday, after having assumed the office of FIFA President on an interim basis on October 8. reports that he was welcomed by Acting Secretary General, Markus Kattner, and addressed the organisation’s staff before spending the rest of the day in the office.

“It’s certainly an unprecedented situation for FIFA,” said Hayatou. “But we remain focused on the necessary reform process, the Presidential election and on supporting the current investigations.

“To restore public trust is a crucial objective. It is essential that FIFA carries on its mission of developing the game and staging international tournaments.”

Acting Secretary General Markus Kattner discussed the main administrational matters with Hayatou and provided an overview of FIFA’s activities over the next few months.

“Operationally, FIFA is working well, as it should, and the best example is the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which is about to kick-off in Chile”, said Kattner.

“On top of that, the FIFA World Cup qualifiers are taking place and over one million spectators attended matches this week in Asia. Our football development activities across the globe continue apace and our preparations for the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup in Japan and the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2015 are also progressing well.”

Acting President Issa Hayatou will remain in Zurich until next week, when he will lead the Extraordinary Executive Committee meeting on Tuesday, October 20 at the Home of FIFA.

Real Madrid Must Stay 100 Percent Focused – Keylor Navas

Real MadridGoalkeeper, Keylor Navas, has warned that Real Madrid should avoid any mistake and stay focused as they reach the halfway stage of the season atop the La Liga.

The reigning European champions have achieved a club-record, 19-game winning streak, after recovering from a shaky start to 2014-15.

Their good run could be extended again on Friday when they travel to Almeria in their final Primera Division game of 2014.

With the team two points clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga, they head to Morocco to take part in the Club World Cup.

However, Costa Rica international, Navas, who joined from Levante during the summer, has warned his team-mates not to let their concentration slip as the winter break approaches.

“This team cannot make mistakes, we must stay focused 100 per cent and work to be prepared at that time.

“Every victory is celebrated, we are delighted when we win. We know we’re at a winning club where you have to triumph; every game that brings us closer to our goals of being champions,” he told

The shot-stopper is also thrilled to have played a part in Real Madrid’s last two UEFA Champions League wins, despite having largely been second choice to Iker Casillas since his arrival.

“It’s amazing to be at Real Madrid,” he added. “It’s a dream for any player that, when it becomes a reality, is difficult to explain.

“I think about everything I’ve been through to get here. Playing in the Champions League … I enjoyed it from the moment we left the changing room. The only way I’d heard that anthem before was on television and being there was a dream come true.

“I always wanted to win titles and now I have the chance. I try to adapt, to commit and to contribute. The road is hard, there will be barriers, but I’m willing to work hard for many titles here.”

Lone Guerrero Strike Earns Corinthians Club World Cup

Paolo Guerrero snatched a 69th-minute winner as South American champions Corinthians stunned Chelsea to win soccer’s Club World Cup on Sunday.

Chelsea, who had been under pressure to win the tournament after becoming the first holders to exit the Champions League at the group stage, missed a string of chances to win the final.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Guerrero told reporters after his goal sparked wild celebrations among the more than 15 000 travelling Brazilian fans among the crowd of 68 000.

“To win in front of so many Corinthians fans who came all this way. It’s tremendous, unbelievable.”

Gary Cahill, sent off in the last minute, Fernando Torres and Victor Moses were denied by brilliant saves from Corinthians goalkeeper Cassio in a game the English side largely dominated.

Corinthians, who won the first Club World Cup in 2000, caught Chelsea cold when Peru striker Guerrero headed home from close range after Danilo’s shot looped up off Cahill’s boot.

“We’re coming away with that bad feeling after creating enough chances to at least draw the game,” said Chelsea captain Frank Lampard.

“It’s a big disappointment to come all this way and not to win.”

“We knew it would be a tough game and we knew what they would bring,” added Lampard after making his first start since returning from injury.

“Now we have to go back and win a run of games to keep ourselves in the (Premier) league (fight) and push on in every competition. We have to.”

European sides had won the last five Club World Cups, with Chelsea’s interim manager Rafael Benitez winning it with Inter Milan in 2010 and a runner-up with Liverpool in 2005.

Messi wins Excellence Sports Award

Barcelona striker Lionel Messi has won the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award (ESPY) for Best International Athlete.

The diminutive Barcelona star ended the 2011-12 season with a club record 73 goals, and helped his side to victories in the Spanish Supercopa, European Super Cup, the Club World Cup and the Copa del Rey.

The Argentinean skipper was fit throughout the season and that is the reason why he has managed to give out 63 appearances for both club and country. During these appearances, the Argentinean star has managed to score 80 goals and gave out 25 assists as well.

He played almost all the matches during this season and furthermore took part in the World Cup qualifying matches and the friendly games which the Argentinean national team played.

He also won the European golden boot, scoring 72 goals for the Spanish giants, Barcelona.

Though Messi could not help Barcelona win the Champions League or the Spanish La Liga, he was still the top scorer in both competitions. He was able to score 50 goals in the league, and scored 14 in the Champions League to be crowned as the golden boot for both tournaments.

Messi won the award for ‘Excellence in Sports Performance’, an award which was started back in the year 1993 after fans voted him of ahead of Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and reigning US and Australian Open tennis champion Novak Djokovic and female golfer Yani Tseng to the prestigious honour, presented by sports broadcaster ESPN

Messi is the latest in a long line of sporting greats to receive the ward, including the likes of Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Usain Bolt.