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Fluminense beat Al Ahly to reach Club World Cup final

Fluminense advanced to the Club World Cup final after two goals in the final 20 minutes proved enough to beat a spirited Al Ahly 2-0 in Jeddah on Monday.

Jhon Arias’ penalty broke the deadlock before John Kennedy secured victory over the Egyptian side in the final minute of the 90 in Saudi Arabia.

The Brazilians will face either Champions League winners Manchester City or Japan’s Urawa Reds in Friday’s final.

Al Ahly were left to rue a number of missed chances as the African champions failed to find a way past 43-year-old Fluminense goalkeeper Fabio.

The last 10 Club World Cups have been won by European sides.

But if the gulf is growing between Europe’s elite and the rest of the world at club level, the gap between South America’s best and the rest of the world has narrowed significantly.

Twice in the past three years, the Copa Libertadores winners have failed to qualify for the final and Fluminense could easily have followed suit.

Al Ahly had dumped out a star-studded Al-Ittihad featuring Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Fabinho on their home patch in the previous round.

And roared on by thousands of travelling fans from just across the Red Sea, they were the more energetic and enterprising side throughout.

But Fluminense’s wealth of experience saw them over the line.

At the age of 40, Felipe Melo became the oldest outfield player in Club World Cup history, while former Real Madrid captain Marcelo won the decisive penalty.

Fluminense’s best two efforts before half-time both came back off the woodwork from Arias.

The Colombian international’s first sweet strike rebounded off the angle of post and bar before he hit the post from a well-worked corner.

But Al Ahly should have made their first half ascendency count when Kahraba headed a glorious chance straight at Fabio.

The chances continued to come and go for the Egyptians after the break.

Kahraba fired too close to Fabio before the veteran ‘keeper denied Emam Ashour.

Al Ahly were made to pay for that profligacy when a rare moment of quality from Marcelo lured Percy Tau into a mistimed challenge inside the box.

Mohamed Elshenawy saved a penalty from Benzema in the quarter-finals, but this time was beaten by Arias’ accurate spot-kick into the bottom corner.

Tau had an immediate chance to make amends but headed straight at Fabio.

Substitute Taher Mohamed was next to waste a big opportunity to equalise, but Al Ahly failed to find a way through despite having 18 attempts on goal.

Kennedy, whose goal won the Copa Libertadores final against Boca Juniors last month, then showed the poise Al Ahly had been missing in front of goal by coolly turning inside his marker and slotting into the far corner.

Fluminense coach and interim Brazil manager Fernando Diniz has described his style of football as the opposite of Pep Guardiola’s.

The Manchester City boss begins his quest to win the Club World Cup with a third different club on Tuesday.

But on this evidence there is little for Guardiola’s City to fear in the final should they see off Asian champions Urawa.

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