Ahly overpower Benzema’s Ittihad Jeddah to reach Club World Cup semis

Karim Farouk , Friday 15 Dec 2023

Egyptian giants Ahly produced another tactical masterclass to beat a star-studded Ittihad Jeddah side 3-1 on Friday and advance to the Club World Cup semi-finals.

Emam Ashour
Ahly midfielder Emam Ashour celebrates after scoring against Ittihad Jeddah. Photo: Ahly X account.

 Ali Maaloul's 21st-minute penalty, followed by goals from Hussein El Shahat at the 59th minute and Emam Ashour at the 62nd minute, sealed the fate of the match. Despite a late consolation goal by French striker Karim Benzema in injury time, Ahly's dominance remained unshaken.

The defeat dealt a shocking blow to the home crowd, whose aspirations for glory were fueled by the presence of luminaries like Golden Ball winner Benzema, alongside Premier League talents Ngolo Kante and Fabinho.

This victory marks Ahly's sixth entry into the Club World Cup semi-finals, setting the stage for a compelling encounter against Brazil's Copa Libertadores champions, Fluminense, scheduled for Monday.

From the onset, the Red Devils asserted their strength, nearly breaking the deadlock early in the game. However, the valiant efforts of Egyptian defender and Ittihad Jeddah's vice-captain, Ahmed Hegazi, thwarted attempts by Mahmoud "Kahraba" Abdel-Moneim and Hussein El-Shahat.

A pivotal moment arrived in the 20th minute when Ahly was awarded a penalty following a VAR review, as defender Zakaria Hawsawi handled the ball inside the box, denying Kahraba an opportunity. Maaloul confidently converted the penalty in the 21st minute to put Ahly in the lead.

Despite relentless efforts by Ittihad Jeddah, Ahly's defensive resilience, bolstered by goalkeeper Mohamed El Shennawy's exceptional saves against threats from Romarinho and Igor Coronado, preserved their slender lead.

El Shennawy had another moment of brilliance after saving a penalty kick from Benzema just before the break.

The second half saw Ittihad Jeddah push forward aggressively, only to be punished by Ahly's clinical forward play.

Kahraba's instrumental setup enabled El Shahat to curl a magnificent shot into the far post at the 59th minute, followed by Ashour's close-range finish at the 62nd minute, marking his Club World Cup debut in style.

Despite dominating possession, Ittihad struggled to create meaningful opportunities, hindered by Ahly's resolute defense intent on securing their victory.

In a dramatic late moment, Hegazi's powerful header struck the post in the 91st minute, falling to Benzema, who netted into an empty goal.

The game ended on a tense note for Al Ahly as French striker Anthony Modeste received a red card in the 90th minute, reducing them to 10 men on the field just moments after his introduction.

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