Chelsea have never won the Club World Cup before, but the European champions have a chance of breaking their duck after qualifying for Saturday’s final against Palmeiras
Chelsea have kept their dream of becoming world champions alive with a 1-0 victory against Saudi outfit Al Hilal on Wednesday afternoon.
Romelu Lukaku’s winner was enough for the European champions get the win at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Al Hilal, who reached the semi-final after an emphatic 6-1 victory against Al Jazira on Sunday, gave the Blues a tough game and were unlucky not to score.
Chelsea will now face Copa Libertadores holders Palmeiras in Saturday’s final – held at the same venue – after the Brazilian outfit defeated Al Ahly on Tuesday.
Chelsea reach final
Chelsea have yet another trophy in sight after reaching the final of the Club World Cup.
The Blues had already reached one final this season – the EFL Cup – and could now complete a unique double of winning two trophies in February.
Chelsea controlled the first half and should’ve been at least 2-0 up at the interval, wasting the bulk of the possession.
And they were almost made to pay, with Al Hilal dominating large periods of the second half. Blues fans everywhere were relieved to hear the full-time whistle.
It wasn’t an easy start for the Blues. They struggled to break down Al Hilal during the first 30 minutes of Wednesday’s encounter and needed their record signing to deliver.
Lukaku had scored just eight goals for Chelsea since his £97.5million return from Inter Milan in August and many were questioning whether he was up to the job.
He didn’t let his team down in the semi-final, however, taking advantage of a defensive mistake to give the Premier League outfit a first-half lead.
Lukaku was quiet after that moment, yet his team-mates didn’t offer much support and he deserves respect for scoring the winner.
No Mendy, no problem
Although Thomas Tuchel wasn’t in attendance after contracting Covid, he did make a significant call – picking Kepa Arrizabalaga ahead of Edouard Mendy.
In fairness to Tuchel, Mendy had just returned from international duty after winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal.
The fact Mendy was on the bench, however, suggests he was available. He is likely to regain his place for the final, yet Tuchel’s faith in Arrizabalaga is obvious.
The Spaniard produced a brilliant save just after the hour, getting down well to stop former Porto striker Moussa Marega from making it 1-1.
Minutes later, he produced a magnificent one-handed stop to remind everyone why he cost £71million from Athletic Bilbao three-and-a-half years ago.
Arrizabalaga has done well in Mendy’s absence and is a goalkeeper who can be trusted again. Interest from other clubs may emerge in the coming months.
Premier League fans were treated to a familiar sight when Odion Ighalo started for Al Hilal.
The Nigeria international, 32, is best remembered for scoring 15 league goals for Watford during the 2015-16 campaign and his year-long loan spell at Manchester United.
Ighalo only joined Al Hilal last month and told reporters it was “a big honour” to play for the most successful club in Saudi Arabia.
After leaving Old Trafford 13 months ago, the striker scored 18 Saudi Pro League goals for Al Shabab. He had two chances in the second half, yet couldn’t find the target.
This is a major trophy
There has been a lot of talk over whether Chelsea are that bothered about winning the Club World Cup, yet they’d be fools not to take this competition seriously.
The Club World Cup is still a relatively new phenomenon – only coming into existence 22 years ago – but it’s the only major trophy in the club’s history to allude them.
The Blues have (almost) won it all: the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup, Cup Winners Cup, Super Cup and the Community Shield.
Their lack of a world title, though, is an unwelcomed gap in their full trophy cabinet.
Tuchel’s side are the only European club to not win the competition having competed in it and the last European side to lose a final – nine years ago.
Liverpool, United, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid have all won the Club World Cup. It’s now up to Chelsea to become the next European winner
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