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Hiroshima become first J. League side to miss Club World Cup semis

Kyodo

J. League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima became the first Japanese side not to reach the Club World Cup semifinals after losing 2-1 to African champions Al-Ahly on Sunday.

J. League MVP Hisato Sato’s goal in the first half was not enough as Elsayed Hamdi and substitute Mohamed Aboutrika struck for the Egyptian visitors, who will now face Copa Libertadores winners Corinthians in Wednesday’s semifinal.

In the other semifinal on Thursday in Yokohama, Chelsea will play Monterrey after the Mexican side beat South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai 3-1.

Asian champions Ulsan, who were dominated by Monterrey throughout earlier Sunday, will head to the fifth-place match on Wednesday against Hiroshima.

Despite the snowfall at Toyota Stadium, the first ever club meeting between Japanese and Egyptians turned out to be an entertaining affair — and one that Sanfrecce would be left to rue for all their misses.

Al-Ahly reached the scoreboard first on the quarter-hour, when they took advantage of Hiroshima who were rattled by the injury substitution of goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.

Nishikawa collided into his own man while coming off his line in the fourth minute, and had to be stretchered off. His status was not immediately known.

With little used Takuya Masuda stepping in for Nishikawa, Al-Ahly moved in front through Hamdi who struck from a ball by captain Hossam Ghaly.

Sanfrecce simmered down after the goal, dominating the rest of the half. They equalized in the 32nd minute when Mihael Mikic headed down a half-clearance for Sato, who hit past keeper Sherif Ekramy for his first goal of the tournament.

Mikic and Toshihiro Aoyama, the match-winner in Thursday’s 1-0 victory over Auckland City, were on the end of a pair of great chances before halftime but blew it after making the unnecessary extra pass.

And Hiroshima would pay the price as Al-Ahly, who have played more games than any other team in Club World Cup history with eight appearances, reestablished the lead in the 57th minute when Mohamed Aboutrika struck against the run of play.

Sato was on his own with the keeper in the 81st minute but the Japanese international somehow managed to fire wide a completely free shot before the final whistle consigned Sanfrecce to infamy.

“We had chances to go in front in the first half and I missed a chance to equalize in the second half,” said Sato. “You have to put those chances away and that proved the difference. Still, we were able to play Sanfrecce’s style of soccer and we can hold our heads high.”

He added, “I am really disappointed that we didn’t win but hopefully we can play hard in the next game and get fifth place.”

Hiroshima’s predecessors Urawa Reds (2007), Gamba Osaka (2008) and Kashiwa Reysol (2011) had all made it past the Club quarterfinals.

In the first quarterfinal, Jesus Corona opened the scoring by the far post after a left-wing cross in the ninth minute, and Cesar Delgado netted his first in the 77th minute, finishing off a neat sequence through the box by Monterrey.

Delgado sewed up the three points six minutes to time, when he dodged one defender before hitting past goalkeeper Kim Young Kwang from just inside the area.

Asian Player of the Year Lee Keun Ho pulled one back for Ulsan in the 88th minute, though only after a horrendous fumble by goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco.