By Isidore Lewis
Seongnam Ilhwa v. Inter Milan: Match Report.
A commanding victory for Inter Milan at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday evening ensured the presence of at least one of the competition favourites in Saturday’s FIFA Club World Cup final.
Rafael Benitez’s side put in a professional performance to beat Korean side Seongnam Ilhwa 3 0, thanks to goals from Dejan Stankovic, Javier Zanetti and Diego Milito.
Having seen Internacional of Brazil slip up the night before, the Italian giants will have been keen to guard against complacency. Therefore, it was no surprise to see Benitez field a full-strength side – recalling the previously injured trio of Julio Cesar, Christian Chivu and Milito to the starting line-up – in what was clearly a statement of intent.
The game started in bizarre fashion, with Inter being dealt a huge blow when Wesley Sneijder was forced off the field with a hamstring injury just seconds into the match. However, the Italians quickly made up for the disappointment, taking the lead almost as soon as the match restarted through Dejan Stankovic, who slotted home to record the earliest goal in Club World Cup history.
Seongnam made a physical start to the game, putting pressure on the Inter players in possession and conceding a number of fouls early on, much to the displeasure of the Italian side.
But when captain Javier Zanetti scored Inter’s second goal after a neat one-two with fellow Argentinian Diego Milito, the game looked to be beyond reach for Seongnam.
Seognam did end the half well, however, the Koreans twice going close via the head of Montenegro forward Dzenan Radoncic and, eventually, through Colombian Mauricio Molina, who struck a free-kick just wide in what turned out to be the last kick of the half.
Through the left-foot of Molina, the Koreans looked to the aerial threat of defender Sasa Ognenovski and Radoncic to force an opening, but Inter’s resolute defence ensured the Koreans would go home frustrated.
Seognam started the second half brightly but, once again, failed to create any serious opening.
And when Diego Milito followed up Samuel Eto’o’s crafted shot after 72 minutes, the game was all but over.
Inter will now play TP Mazembe of Congo, who booked their place in final after a shock victory over Internacional of Brazil the night before.
Elsewhere in the Club World Cup, Mexican side Pachucha had earlier in the day given their fans something to cheer about by beating hosts Al-Wahda of Abu Dhabi in the play-off for fifth place. Two late goals from Pachuca’s Argentinian forward Dario Cvitanich tied the game 2 2, from which point the Mexicans eventually won on penalties.