AFC Champions League holders Urawa Red Diamonds sealed fifth spot in the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017, with a thumping brace from Mauricio Antonio, seeing off Wydad Casablanca 3-2.
After two tight and tense encounters in the second round, both sides were now free of nerves and opted for expansive and open approaches from the off – a decision that brought about an action-packed first half. It was kick-started by a stunning strike by Urawa defender Mauricio, who picked out the top corner from 30 yards.
It was a lead that lasted just three minutes, when Ismaeil El Haddad’s free-kick drifted beyond everyone in the Urawa box, including goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa. It was not something the lively Japanese fans had to dwell on long, though, as a slick move orchestrated by Rafael Silva allowed Yosuke Kashiwagi to slide home at the far post.
Had it not been for Nishikawa, Wydad could – and possibly should – have gone in level, denied twice by the legs of the Saitama stopper. They returned from the break brightly too but, despite this, it was the Brazilian central defender who was the thorn in their side again.
Less emphatic than his first, a scrambled clearance found the No2 just inside the African champions’ area, and he emphatically lashed home his second of the night.
While Nishikawa was forced into another smart save, a consultation with the video assistant referee handed the Moroccans a late penalty, duly converted by Red Hajhouj. Even so, the Japanese outfit were able to clinch victory to end their stint in the United Arab Emirates on a high.