Man City beats Urawa Reds to reach Club World Cup final
Manchester City outclassed Urawa Red Diamonds in a 3-0 victory in the King Abdullah Sports City stadium on Tuesday to set up a Club World Cup final showdown against Brazilian side Fluminense.
European champions City were frustrated by a well-organised Japanese side during the opening half but took the lead with an own goal by Marius Hoibraten in stoppage time. Mateo Kovacic made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute with his first goal since joining City from Chelsea and Bernardo Silva's deflected shot a few minutes later meant City could play the rest of the game in cruise control.
Pep Guardiola's City, who had won only three of their previous eight games in all competitions, are looking to become the fourth English club to win the title after Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.
They will start as heavy favourites in Friday's final against Copa Libertadores champions Fluminense who on Monday beat Egypt's Al-Ahly 2-0.
"The players know how important it is for the club," Guardiola, who won the title twice with Barcelona and once with Bayern Munich, said. "To be in this final, you have to do incredible things like win the Champions League. This may be the only time we play this in our lifetime. We will try to win the title we don't have to complete the circle."
City have suffered some domestic wobbles of late and have slipped off the pace in the Premier League in their quest for a fourth successive title.
But even with Erling Haaland still missing and Guardiola shuffling his pack after Saturday's 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace, they had far too much for the J1 League side.
The Diamonds' gameplan was obvious as they packed their defence and midfield to create a red wall in front of their goal and it worked well as City struggled to find openings.
Despite barely getting out of their own half they almost made it to halftime on level terms but were undone as Matheus Nunes finally found some space and his low cross was intercepted by Hoibraten who steered the ball into his own goal.
The game opened up in the second half with Diamonds showing a little more adventure but it made it easy for City.
Kovacic, twice a winner of the competition with Real Madrid and once with Chelsea, was sent clear and he surged away before smashing a shot high past Shusaku Nishikawa.
City wrapped it up when Nishikawa made a fine save but the ball fell to Bernardo Silva whose shot took a nick off Hoibraten and went just inside the post.
All that was left then for City was to make sure of a first clean sheet since Nov. 7.
Urawa Red Diamonds will face Al-Ahly in the third-placed playoff on Friday.