DOHA (Reuters) - Brazilian champions Flamengo came from behind to beat Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal 3-1 on Tuesday and book their place in the final of the Club World Cup.
The Copa Libertadores winners, who struggled in the opening stages before rallying after the break, will face either European champions Liverpool or Mexico’s Monterrey in Saturday’s final.
“I don’t get to choose the opponent, I don’t care, both teams have the quality to get to the final,” said Flamengo’s Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus.
“Whoever wins that semi-final, Saturday is going to be one of the most important matches of my career,” he added.
Asian Champions League winners Al Hilal, who finished with 10 men, were bright and inventive from the outset and should have gone in front in the 16th minute but Bafetimbi Gomis put the ball over the bar from a promising position.
Two minutes later, the Saudi side broke through when, after a smart pull-back, a low shot from Salem Al Dawsari took a deflection off Flamengo defender Pablo Mari and flew into the roof of the net.
Al Hilal, coached by Romanian Razvan Lucescu, looked full of confidence and with former Juventus forward Sebastian Giovinco creating space with his buzzing movement, Flamengo were rocking at the back.
Yet a switch in formation from their Portuguese coach Jesus at the break paid instant dividends and they got back on level terms four minutes after the interval when Uruguayan Giorgian De Arrascaeta tapped in after a clever cut-back from the impressive Bruno Henrique.
Bruno Henrique then put the Brazilians ahead, meeting a fine Rafinha cross with a thundering header at the near post.
It was Bruno Henrique who created the third goal, putting the outcome beyond doubt, as his low cross was turned into his own net by Ali Albulayhi.
Al Hilal’s Peruvian midfielder Andre Carrillo was sent off in the 84th minute after an awful, over the top, challenge on De Arrascaeta.
“I talked to our players and gave them instructions at halftime,” said Jesus. “As a coach you have to be always alert and I saw the way they were playing. We played well in the second half.”
Lucescu felt his side paid the price for not making the most of their early pressure after catching the Brazilians cold.
“I don’t know if we surprised them but we controlled the game, and played very well. We created opportunities, then they started to understand it will be a very hard game. I think the key of the game was that period when we didn’t get another goal,” he said.
“I am disappointed with result but proud of a fantastic performance in the first half,” he said.
Liverpool and Monterrey face each other at the same venue on Wednesday in the other semi-final.
Earlier, Tunisia’s Esperance beat Qatari side Al Sadd 6-2 to claim fifth place with Libyan forward Hamdou Elhounis grabbing a hat-trick.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis