ABU DHABI – United Arab Emirates league champion Al-Jazira pulled off a big surprise Saturday night at the Club World Cup, getting a goal shortly after the start of the second half in a 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Japanese club Urawa Red Diamonds.
Al-Jazira, which qualified for the event as the host country’s national league winner, will next take on defending champion and Champions League holders Real Madrid in Wednesday’s second semifinal.
The Abu Dhabi club, which had downed New Zealand side Auckland City earlier in the tournament, was outplayed in terms of ball possession by its Japanese opponent at Zayed Sports City Stadium in this capital but did a better job of capitalizing on its chances.
The head coach of the Abu Dhabi side, Dutch manager Henk ten Cate, crafted a sensible defense-minded game plan that sought to mask his side’s weaknesses while looking to create chances on the counter-attack.
The strategy worked perfectly seven minutes into the second half when Brazilian forward Romarinho sent a long pass to Ali Mabkhout, who made the most of his opportunity against Urawa goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.
It was a frustrating day at the office and a disappointing result for the 2017 AFC Champions League champions, who despite dominating ball possession only created one chance on goal in the first half.
Japanese head coach Takafumi Hori made a flurry of substitutions in the second half but they proved fruitless in breaking down Al-Jazira’s defensive wall.
Mexico’s Pachuca, winners of the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League, advanced to the final four with a win earlier Saturday over 2017 CAF Champions League victors Wydad Casablanca.
Pachuca will next take on Brazilian side Gremio, winners of the 2017 Copa Libertadores, in Tuesday’s first semifinal.