Yokohama: Chelsea’s trek to the other side of the world ended in numbed disappointment and livid frustration. Corinthians reclaimed the Fifa Club World Cup for South America at the Londoners’ expense here, wresting the trophy from Europe for the first time in six years, with this arena pounding to the beat of the Brazilian drums. It was as if Sao Paulo had upped sticks to Shin Yokohama for the night, with Rafael Benitez and his players left defeated and deflated as the din pursued them from the turf.
Their number had been reduced to 10 by the end, Gary Cahill dismissed in stoppage time for an off-the-ball incident with Emerson and departing the pitch perplexed. Fernando Torres had an equaliser denied in the seconds that still remained, an offside flag choking his celebrations, but it was his inability to beat the outstanding Cassio moments earlier that had actually proved decisive. The goalkeeper had blocked the Spaniard’s clearest sight of goal with his legs and with that chance went all hope of extra time. There was to be no Didier Drogba to bail the Premier League club out this time.
Defeat will hurt. Ramires, exhausted and distraught as he slumped to the turf, had to be consoled by teammates and coaching staff, while David Luiz, in floods of tears, sat alone and hardly able to watch his compatriots mass together to lift the trophy. Those images rather summed up the mood in the aftermath as the vast numbers of Corinthians fans crammed into this arena erupted in joy, leaving Benitez with work to be done as to how he lifts his squad ahead of Wednesday’s Capital One Cup quarter-final at Leeds. The squad have another tenpin bowling trip planned for midnight tonight as they seek to deflect the jet-lag, though that will be a sombre gathering.
The only goal had been registered by the Peruvian Paolo Guerrero, a former Bayern Munich player, which added to the irony as a tense encounter edged into its final quarter. In truth it had been an intriguing rather than swashbuckling contest for long periods, the teams probing cautiously before Chelsea injected some urgency and Corinthians found their rhythm on the counter. The Premier League team might have felt disheartened not to have led early on when Juan Mata’s early corner was met by Cahill, his header striking Chicao as he retreated towards the goal-line with the England international then prodding the rebound goalwards. Cassio was falling backwards in the confusion and was grateful that the attempt juddered into him rather than beyond him, the goalkeeper ending up tumbling back to sit on the ball.
There was another close-range grab from Torres, and a full-length dive and finger-tip save to deny Victor Moses’ curled attempt as half-time approached that was more impressive, particularly as he had been unsighted by Alessandro in the build-up. Mata’s volley moments later created the impression that Chelsea had retired at the interval a team on the up, the momentum apparently theirs, though Corinthians had largely been content enough to soak up such pressure. Their own threat was sprung on the break, the pace of Guerrero and Emerson discomforting their opponents’ back-line.
David Luiz, up against the club he had supported as a boy, had done well to crowd out Emerson on one barnstorming breakaway. The Brazilian’s centre-half partner, Cahill, struggled with the forwards’ more slippery darts and Emerson should have done better than to slice high and wide in the aftermath of one error. Paulinho, a player coveted by Chelsea and a host of European clubs, was a muscular presence in midfield, granted licence to maraud by Ralf’s deeper-lying brief, the former fizzing a shot in the second half as the pace picked up and the din generated by the Brazilian support boomed round the arena.
As it was, their monotonous chorus was only interrupted in celebration. The Brazilians’ lead, when it was chiselled out, was neatly created even if Chelsea will have cursed the sudden pang of sloppiness. Corinthians broke at pace down their right side, Jorge Henrique nodding down and Paulinho veering across the area, with his heavy touch serving to supply Danilo sprinting into the penalty area. The winger, who had played for Sao Paulo against Benitez’s Liverpool back in 2005, cut inside and saw his shot loop up invitingly from Cahill’s block. David Luiz and Ashley Cole were on the goal-line, and Ramires close, but no Chelsea player reacted quickly enough to prevent Guerrero from heading the loose ball in off the underside of the bar.
Torres’ close-range attempt aside, a chance stemming from a Cesar Azpilicueta throw-in, Chelsea rather ran aground thereafter, their energy sapped as if the 6,000 mile journey had finally caught up with them. Cahill’s dismissal, Emerson rolling around on the centre-spot in apparent agony claiming an elbow had been flung, sapped the last of their conviction. The centre-half was consoled by Benitez as he trudged down the tunnel. The interim first-team manager must try and revive his troops in the hours ahead. This has ended as a damaging experience.
Man of the match: Cassio (Corinthians).
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic (Azpilicueta, 83), Cahill, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Moses (Oscar, 71), Mata, Hazard (Marin, 87); Torres.
Subs not used: Mikel, Ferreira, Turnbull, Bertrand, Piazon, Hilario, Saville.
Corinthians (4-2-3-1): Cassion; Alessandro, Chicao, Paulo Andre, Fabio Santos; Ralf, Paulinho; Jorge Henrique, Emerson (Wallace, 90), Danilo; Guerrero (Martinez, 87).
Subs not used: Julio Cesar, Douglas, Anderson Polga, Willian Arao, Edenilson, Danilo Fernandes, Guilherme Andrare, Felipe, Giovanni, Romarinho.