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Teen sensation Alexandre Pato and Luiz Adriano gave South American champion Internacional a hard-fought 2-1 semifinal win over Al Ahly in the Club World Cup on Wednesday.

News photoInternacional forward Luiz Adriano reacts after scoring the decisive goal in the 72nd minute on Wednesday
against Al Ahly of Egypt at National Stadium in the semifinal of the Club World Cup. Internacional won
2-1.
KYODO PHOTO

Substitute Luiz Adriano, on for the injured Alexandre, scored the winner on 72 minutes at Tokyo’s National Stadium, expertly guiding his header in off the post to set up a potential mouthwatering final against European giant Barcelona.

The 17-year-old Alexandre –or “Alex the Duck” as he is known — had lashed in the Brazilians’ opener on 23 minutes before Flavio’s header on 54 minutes pulled the Egyptians level.

“I’m thankful I scored and was able to help my team win,” Alexandre said. “My teammates helped me to relax and I hope the final will be even better.”

Barcelona plays Club America in its semifinal on Thursday, with the final in Yokohama on Dec. 17. Internacional will be hoping to emulate Sao Paulo, which took the title last year after upsetting European heavyweight Liverpool 1-0.

Internacional coach Abel Braga praised his baby-faced assassins Alexandre and 19-year-old Luiz Adriano for helping his team overcome the pre-match jitters.

“We were nervous because it was the first match and we felt a lot of pressure,” Braga said.

“The two youngsters have the same responsibilities as the other players and I am happy they were relaxed and were able to score the goals that decided the match.”

Al Ahly’s Portuguese coach, Manuel Jose, praised his players’ efforts.

“We weren’t inferior to them and we did our best,” Jose said. “Internacional had a lot of personality and were very attack-minded.

“I think we could have played better, particularly in the first half when we gave them too much space. Some of our players were intimidated and made some basic mistakes but we got better in the second half.”

Internacional had dominated the early exchanges on a chilly evening in front of 33,690 fans, and if not for the linesman’s flag may have opened the scoring earlier than it did.

There were vociferous appeals for offside when Alexandre scored legitimately on 23 minutes, but Al Ahly’s protests were to no avail as it was the unfortunate Hassan Mostafa’s sliding challenge that pushed the ball into the path of the forward left exposed by a defense pushing up.

Alexandre collected the ball at the edge of the area and showed the fearlessness that is inherent in such precocious talents to turn and lash the ball past Al Ahly ‘keeper Essam El Hadary.

It was a brilliant goal for the youngster who made a dazzling debut for his club last month, but who only got the nod from coach Braga for this match after regular forward Wason Renteria was ruled out of the tournament with an injury.

Internacional captain Fernandao wasn’t surprised by Alexandre’s performance.

“He showed his full potential in today’s game and we are now in the final.”

Al Ahly struggled to impose itself on the game early on, but slowly found a way back into the match and went close twice later in the half.

First, defender Emad El Nahas’ ferocious free-kick from 30 meters was tipped over by Clemer before Mohamed Aboutrika saw his shot from the edge of the area cannon off the post, with the Internacional ‘keeper well beaten.

Alexandre, bursting with confidence after his goal, delighted the crowd at the start of the second half with some outrageous showboating, juggling the ball on his shoulder three times as he ran down the right touchline.

But Al Ahly equalized against the run of play when Angolan forward Flavio expertly guided a header over Clemer after an excellent left-wing cross from Tarek Said.

Alex the Duck’s luck ran out on 65 minutes when he was carried off with an ankle injury and for a while it was the Egyptians who had the momentum.

For all their possession, though, they couldn’t find the goal they so desperately needed and it was Alexandre’s replacement, Luiz Adriano, who stooped low late to meet a corner from right-back Ceara and thread his header past El Hadary and in off the post.

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