YOKOHAMA — Sao Paulo beat Liverpool 1-0 to win the FIFA Club World Championship final at International Stadium Yokohama on Sunday, Mineiro’s goal settling a game in which the Reds had three goals disallowed.
Mineiro coolly finished a three-man move in the 27th minute to give South American champion Sao Paulo its third world crown, but Liverpool was left to rue goals ruled out for Luis Garcia, Sami Hyppia and substitute Florent Sinama Pongolle amid a brilliant second-half display from player-of-the-tournament ‘keeper Rogerio Ceni.
“This is the greatest feeling,” goalscorer Mineiro said. “Everyone gave their best tonight and this is a victory for everyone involved in the club.”
Reds manager Rafael Benitez believed Liverpool was cruelly robbed of victory and questioned the performance of referee Benito Armando Archundia.
“I think we deserved to win,” he said. ” We had 21 shots, 17 corners and hit two crossbars, three goals, and why no red card? And why, after a lot of problems, we played only three more minutes? I am disappointed with the result.
“(Diego) Lugano has downed Gerrard, so that is a red card,” Benitez said referring to an incident when Steven Gerrard was bearing down the wing.
“We have done all the things for winning,” he said. “We scored three goals. We created a lot of chances, we did everything we could.”
But video replays after the match appeared to vindicate the referee’s decisions, at least on the disallowed goals.
Benitez, with the team despite his father’s death earlier in the week, made five changes from the semifinal. Stephen Warnock, Steve Finnan, Harry Kewell, Luis Garcia and Fernando Morientes came in for John Arne Riise, Josemi, Djimi Traore, Djibril Cisse and Peter Crouch.
The 66,821-crowd that filled out the International Stadium Yokohama should have put a smile on the face of Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president unsure as late as Friday whether the final would pique enough local interest without the draw of a Japanese team.
And the noisy crowd saw European champion Liverpool nearly get off to a flyer in the first minute when Morientes flashed a free header past the post after a cross from Steven Gerrard.
But before the match could restart, a fan gave pitch-side security guards the slip and jumped into the Sao Paulo goal. There, he attached himself to the net and play was held up for four minutes while a dozen officials struggled to free him and then repair the broken net.
Liverpool, seemingly flummoxed by both the interruption and Benitez’s tactical tinkering, struggled to maintain any fluency in the early stages. Gerrard, starting on the right midfield, was particularly subdued, as was Kewell, doing little to justify Benitez’s continued faith in the mercurial Australian.
Sao Paulo, unchanged from the semifinal, saw its first chance fall to Marcio Amoroso, the ex-Verdy Kawasaki man producing an excellent turn before shooting straight at Jose Reina. But Liverpool came straight back and Morientes should have done better after Garcia fed him with a clever throughball.
Mineiro made the breakthrough for Sao Paulo on 27 minutes. Fabao fed Aloisio lurking on the edge of the area and the striker dinked a fantastic ball through the defense for midfielder Mineiro to finish coolly.
It was the first goal Liverpool had conceded in 12 games and a wake up call for the normally watertight defense. Time and time again, Sao Paulo’s midfield were sliding passes through the Reds flat back four, which was beginning to look shaky.
Garcia twice went close within minutes of the goal, first meeting Gerrard’s corner with a looping header that came back off the bar before he headed wide from a chipped throughball from Xabi Alonso.
It was now Liverpool’s turn to catch the Brazilian defense flatfooted as it turned up the heat on a bitterly cold night. Gerrard skewed a shot wide before Garcia again went close with a header, this time his glancing effort brilliantly saved by Ceni.
Liverpool immediately set siege on the Sao Paulo goal at the start of the second half. On 52 minutes, Gerrard sent in a wickedly curling free-kick from 30 meters, but Ceni was equal to the effort with a flying save.
Garcia thought it was case of third header lucky on 62 minutes, but the effort was ruled out for offside, before the unlucky Spaniard saw another effort clawed away by Ceni as Liverpool peppered the plucky ‘keeper.
It was beginning to look like it wasn’t going to be Liverpool’s night and Hyppia’s disallowed goal — Alonso’s corner had bent out and back in before the Finn put the ball in the net — went some way to confirm this.
Final confirmation came in the 88th minute. Sinama Pongolle wheeled away with delight after he converted a Garcia cross from the left, but the referee broke the hearts of the Reds, ruling that Garcia had strayed offside.
“I’m delighted for a Brazil team to win it in the stadium Brazil won the World Cup in,” Sao Paulo ‘keeper Ceni said. “But it wasn’t just down to me.”
The South Americans won their third world crown after winning the Toyota Cup in 1992 and ’93, beating Barcelona and Milan.
Liverpool has twice been to the final of the Toyota Cup, the forerunner to the Club World Championship, losing 3-0 to a Zico-inspired Flamengo in 1981 and 1-0 to Independiente three years later.
Liverpool thumped Deportivo Saprissa 3-0 in their semifinal on Thursday, with two goals from Peter Crouch and a wonder strike from Gerrard.
Sao Paulo beat Asian champion Al Ittihad 3-2 in the other semifinal of the competition that brings together the cup winners of the six continental confederations that make up FIFA.
Saprissa clinches third
Substitute Ronald Gomez fired in an unstoppable 89th minute free-kick to give Deportivo Saprissa a come-from-behind 3-2 win and secure a third-place finish for the Costa Ricans in the Club World Championship.
In the earlier game at International Stadium Yokohama on Sunday, Ittihad looked set to collect third prize after Mohammed Kallon and Joseph-Desire Job had put the Saudi side 2-1 up.
But Alvaro Saborio, who scored Saprissa’s opener, fired in his second of the night from the penalty spot on 85 minutes before Gomez rifled in a stunning free-kick from the right edge of the area that flew past Ittihad ‘keeper Mabrouk Zaid.
Asian player of the year Hamad Al Montashari was sent off for the foul in the 87th minute that gave Saprissa the free-kick chance for the goal.
“I’m very happy with the players? They had the right mentality and I’m very happy overall,” Saprissa coach Hernan Medford said. “It was a very, very good game against a good Asian team my players had and today I was satisfied.”
The all-Costa Rican team known as the Purple Monsters went ahead on 13 minutes when Saborio brushed off Osama Al Harbi to finish confidently.
Kallon, Ittihad’s best player during the tournament, crashed in an equalizer for the Saudis on 28 minutes before Job, making his first appearance of the tournament, kept his cool to fire in a retaken penalty on 53 minutes.
And the game looked to be Ittihad’s before Saborio and supersub Gomez turned the game on its head and won it for the all-Costa Rican side.
Asian champion Ittihad goes home after a topsy-turvy tournament in which it became involved in controversy when FIFA ruled that three of its Brazilian players were ineligible to play.
But the Saudis bounced back to beat Al Ahly 1-0 in the opening match, ending the Egyptians 55-match unbeaten run, before losing 3-2 to Sao Paulo in the semifinals and seeing third place snatched away from them by the same scoreline.
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