Al-Ittihad suffered a detrimental loss in the Club World Cup quarter-finals due to Karim Benzema’s failure to convert a penalty, resulting in a defeat against Al Ahly. The highly acclaimed Saudi champions faced humiliation on their own turf in Jeddah as the Egyptian team triumphed with a 3-1 scoreline, advancing to the semi-finals.
Notably, the match featured N’Golo Kante and Fabinho, both of whom had abandoned European football for the lucrative opportunities in the Middle East, commencing their play for Al-Ittihad. Nevertheless, it became apparent that there remains a substantial disparity between the Saudi Pro League and the most formidable national tournaments worldwide. This disparity was laid bare before a capacity crowd of 60,000 spectators at the King Abdullah Sports City.
The initial portion of the match was characterized by two penalties that were granted following Video Assistant Referee (VAR) evaluations for handball. Ali Maaloul successfully executed the first penalty for Al Ahly, as Hassan Kadesh was sanctioned for handling a lengthy pass inside the Al-Ittihad penalty area. During the additional time, there was a change in circumstances when a pass into the Al Ahly penalty area accidentally struck Mohamed Abdelmonem’s extended arm. Benzema then took charge of the penalty kick, but his weak shot was stopped by Mohamed El Shenawy.
Right at the beginning of the second half, Al-Ittihad had a perfect chance to level the score, but El Shenawy deflected Faisal Al-Ghamdi’s shot onto the goal post. This left Benzema feeling disappointed as he urgently requested for the ball to be passed to him for a simple goal. The failure to convert these opportunities had a significant impact as Al Ahly secured the win by scoring two goals within a three-minute period around the 60th minute. Hussein El Shahat skillfully curved a shot into the far corner to extend the Egyptians’ advantage, while Eman Ashour concluded a fantastic team counter-attack with a composed finish.
Although Al Ahly delivered an impressive performance, their night ended on a negative note when Anthony Modeste, who had just come on as a substitute, received a red card for a reckless elbow. Shortly after, the 10-man team conceded a goal almost immediately as Benzema took advantage of a rebound from a corner kick. Nevertheless, it proved to be insufficient and delayed, as Al Ahly ensured their spot in the semi-finals against Fluminense from Brazil.
In the second quarter-final match, Urawa Red Diamonds, the champions of Asia, triumphed over Club Leon from Mexico with a 1-0 score, thanks to a goal from substitute Alex Schalk. Afterward, Schalk was fouled by the captain of Leon, William Tesillo, near the penalty area, resulting in a second yellow card for Tesillo and extinguishing any hope of a comeback from the champions of CONCACAF.
The Dutch forward, Schalk, expressed his joy for the victory, describing it as a realization of a dream for many players.