Chelsea beat Al Hilal by a score of 1-0 to book their place in Saturday’s Club World Cup final against Brazilian side Palmeiras. Al-Hilal started brightly enough in the semi-final, but it only took around 10 minutes for Chelsea to start dominating possession.
Romelu Lukaku ended a run of five games without a goal as he scored in Chelsea’s 1-0 victory. Chelsea’s club-record signing had failed to score in five games before arriving in Abu Dhabi, and the Blues are looking for the 28-year-old to find his best form in the second half of the season.
Chelsea has only appeared in the tournament once before, in 2012, and the Blues fell to Brazilian side Corinthians in the final. The FIFA Club World Cup is the only major international title missing from Chelsea’s trophy case.
The Chelsea loss in 2012 is also the last time the European participant did not win the crown. Since then, every FIFA Club World Cup has been won by the UEFA Champions League titleholder. The Blues can join Manchester United and Liverpool as the third English side to win the Club World Cup if they beat the Brazilian side on Saturday. Manchester United won in 2008 with a 1-0 final win over Ecuadorian side LDU Quito, while Liverpool won it in 2019 with a 1-0 defeat of Flamengo in the title bout.
Chelsea is not the only English side to fall in the Club World Cup final. In 2005, just the second edition of the competition, Liverpool was defeated 1-0 by Brazilian club Sao Paulo in the final.
Lukaku scored his ninth goal of this season in the 32nd minute in Abu Dhabi as Al Hilal’s defender Al-Shahrani headed Kai Havertz’s cross straight to the Belgian striker. Then he steered home a low finish to guide Chelsea to the final.
Chelsea’s goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga made some fine saves after keeping his position in the starting XI even after the Africa Cup of Nations winner Edouard Mendy returned to the squad.
“We are very happy that Romelu scored,” said first-team coach Zsolt Low, speaking in place of Tuchel, who continues to self-isolate in London following a positive COVID-19 test. “He fought very hard and gave everything in the last game, that’s why we give him the chance all the time, game to game. There was a little bit of luck to score the goal today. We are very happy and we hope that he continues and scores again in the final.”
This goal will be a relief for Lukaku after the issues around him and the club after his interview in December. Hopefully, he will guide the team to their first FIFA Club World Cup title and settle down all the tensions around him.