Chelsea produced a confident performance to cruise into the final of the FIFA Club World Cup with a 3-1 victory over Monterrey in Yokohama.
In their first match in the competition, Chelsea got off to a flying start with an early goal from Juan Mata. The victory was then assured in the opening stages of the second half courtesy of a deflected strike from Fernando Torres and an own goal by Darvin Chavez. With the match drifting toward its inevitable conclusion, Aldo de Nigris scored a consolation in injury time.
Chelsea now go onto meet Corinthians in the final on Sunday, while Concacaf champions Monterrey will have to be content with a third-place playoff against Africans Al-Ahly.
Despite manager Rafael Benitez claiming his side were suffering from jetlag in the lead up to the match, Chelsea started brightly as they pressed Monterrey high up the pitch and caught their opponents cold in the early stages.
David Luiz was reveling in a midfield role as he expressed himself on the ball and in the sixth minute threaded a fine pass through to the impressive Eden Hazard in the inside left channel, but, opening up his body, he curled the ball wide of the far post.
Hazard tried to play creator minutes later as his skills saw him beat two men before chipping the ball back to Oscar on the penalty spot before the Brazilian was crowded out.
The writing was on the wall, though, and few could have been surprised when Chelsea took the lead in the 17th minute. Oscar produced a clever back flick to Ashley Cole, who played the ball first time into Mata and the Spaniard took a touch before drilling the ball low past Jonathan Orozco at his near post.
Struggling for rhythm in the early going as Chelsea’s pressing prevented any concerted possession, Monterrey, who defeated Ulsan 3-1 in the quarterfinals on Sunday, did produce some more encouraging moments in the later stages of the opening period.
If they were to prosper, it looked like coming from wide areas. Jesus Corona beat Cesar Azpilicueta down the left before whipping in a cross that De Nigris got to ahead of Petr Cech, but the forward was unable to keep his header under the bar.
On the other flank, star man Cesar Delgado showed only the odd flash of his potential threat, but at just 1-0 down, there was reason for some optimism for Monterrey heading into the break.
But, all hope for Victor Vucetich’s side was quickly destroyed within minutes of the restart.
Seconds after the break, Hazard pulled the ball back to Torres 12 yards from goal and the Spaniard took a touch on his left side before firing a shot that took a wicked deflection to leave Orozco with no chance as the ball sailed over him at the near post.
Just two minutes later, Monterrey’s fate was all-but sealed as Chelsea cut their defense wide open for a third goal. Torres broke free down the left and played a fine ball across the face of goal with the outside of his right foot to find Mata at the back post. The impressive attacking midfielder tried to help the ball back across for Oscar to tap in, but the ball struck the legs of the unwitting Chavez and went into the net.
Now in utter disarray, matters could have got even worse for the Mexican outfit. Sergio Perez was having a torrid time down the right, but his teammates didn’t do much to assist when Hazard tricked his way through the challenges of three players and looked to put the ball across goal, but Monterrey were able to clear to prevent a third goal in the half’s opening five minutes.
Monterrey were able to stem the tide as Chelsea’s intensity dropped as the second-half progressed. But, despite having plenty of possession, they were unable to pose any concerted threat on the Champions League holders’ goal. In a rare effort on target, a low shot from Delgado from the edge of the box was comfortably saved by Cech.
De Nigris, a willing worker throughout, did finally get some reward for his and his team’s efforts with almost the final kick of the match as he was played in down the inside right channel and was given time to cut back onto his left foot before dispatching a shot into the back of the net.
The concession is unlikely to deter Benitez too much, as the Spaniard was able to rest some legs before the final with Copa Libertadores winners Corinthians in just three days’ time. On the evidence of the two semifinals, the Brazilian side are going to have to up their game to prevent a sixth straight victory for the European representatives.