AL-AIN, United Arab Emirates. The Tuzos took a Club World Cup game to added extra time for their second match in the row. But this time, a goal authored by Everton (94′) four minutes into added extra time helped Gremio sink the Tuzos.
The semifinal match opened up with both teams playing a relatively tactical match with few chances. Gremio, the 2017 Copa Libertadores champions, looked to stifle the Tuzos‘s ability to create clear chances. The tactic of finding lanes to intercept worked for the first half, as the Tuzos could only generate a couple half-chances on goal in the opening half–a dribble into the penalty area by Keisuke Honda that was intercepted from behind by Bruno Cortez and on a long free kick that Marcelo Grohe parried out of the penalty area.
The Porto Alegre side, who failed to challenge Oscar ‘Conejo’ Perez in the first half despite having more chances, turned their penetration of the Tuzos into pressure and sustained ball possession in the second. The introduction of Jael to replace Lucas Barrios helped the Tricolor find better chances. The 29-year-old Mato Grosso native came close to forcing the opening goal on a couple of occasions. First, he authored a 56th minute header off a free kick from inside the area, and then a 63rd minute header. He also suffered from a moment of indecision in the 76th minute when it looked like Jael had a chance to test ‘Conejo’ Perez 1-vs-1.
Despite Jael’s forays forward, he did not author Gremio’s most dangerous chance of the second half of normal time. That honor fell to veteran right back Edilson, who beat an inattentive ‘Conejo’ Perez with a rising direct free kick in the 72nd minute, but Edilson’s free kick traveled wide of his near post.
In the 76th minute, Pachuca managed a rare chance on Marcelo Grohe’s goal, when Jonathan Urretaviscaya found Victor Guzman on a long, diagonal ball. But Guzman did not direct the resulting header on frame.
With the match still scoreless after ninety minutes, the match went to extra time. In the 94th minute, Everton created and finished the first chance Gremio had in spectacular fashion. Receiving the ball on the left wing, Everton dribbled around Omar Gonzalez and Joaquin ‘Shaggy’ Martinez to the center of the penalty area and fired a rising shot beyond the reach of Oscar ‘Conejo’ Perez.
The Tuzos were forced to push to try to grab an equalizer. But instead of generating many chances themselves, the Tuzos were beaten in by the Gremio pressure, which turned many passing lanes the CONCACAF Champions thought they had into giveaways. In the second half of added extra time Pachuca went down to ten men when Victor Guzman was sent off for simulation, his second booked foul of the match.
Everton himself came close to a second for Gremio in the final minute of play. But Oscar Perez turned away the 21-year-old striker’s final attempt on frame to preserve the deficit.
With the win, Gremio make their first appearance in a FIFA Club World Cup or Intercontinental Cup final since 1995, where they will face the winner of the December 13 semifinal (Real Madrid or Al Jazira) on Saturday, December 16 at the Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.
For the Tuzos, it’s a reminder and continuation of Mexican clubs’ struggles to advance to the final of the Club World Cup in its current format. They take on the loser of the Real Madrid-Al Jazira semifinal in the third place match also on Saturday, December 16 in Abu Dhabi.