Well. WELL. It’s 4.15, and time for the first match of the afternoon. Ahly SC vs Club America. Sepp Blatter’s out there, wearing what looks like a VERY expensive cashmere coat, and I think he’s about to give a speech. It’s okay, though, because I’ve got my headphones on, and I’m going to drown him out by listening to “The Boys In The Old Brighton Blue”.
4.17: They’ve just asked us to stand for the “FIFA Anthem”. Oh, the boooys in the ooold Brighton Bluuuueeeeee. Actually, it’s not that bad. Largely because they fade it out after about 15 seconds. Team news! neither Blanco nor Lopez are starting for Club America. Regarding Blanco, this comes as no great surprise. Lopez as well, though? He must have picked up an injury. For Ahly, the goalkeeper El Hadary is injured, so Abdelhamid starts instead.
4.22: There are a lot of empty seats, but FIFA have pulled a pretty neat trick here, by only selling tickets for both matches. This means that, although there can’t be more than 20,000 in here for this match, they can still announce the official attendance as 72,000.
4.25: First chance to Ahly. Neat inter-play on the edge of the penalty area, but the shot from Shawky is charged down. Away to my left, I can clearly hear about 20 voices with English accents singing “Come on you reds”. It’s all Ahly at the moment.
4.28: I’m listening to “Ossie’s Dream” now. Do you think Keith Burkinshaw ever was a general in the army? As you may have guessed, it’s all a bit lethargic out there at the moment.
4.35: Ahly’s goalkeeper is down injured. If he can’t continue, then they have got a third one that they can bring in. There are a lot of concerned faces, and he’s taking an age to get up again. When he finally does, one of his defenders takes the goal kick for him: the universal sign of the Goalkeeper In Distress.
4.38: Fabiano Pereira wastes a good opportunity for CA. His shot is charged down by the stricken Ahly goalkeeper. Pereira goes down like a sack of spuds on the follow up tackle, but the referee isn’t having any of it.
4.41: CA have picked up the pace a little bit now, but they’re missing the extra spark that Lopez gave them up front. At the other end, Ashour shoots a couple of feet over for Ahly from twenty yards out.
4.50: Is it too early to start drinking yet? This is just dire. Really miserable stuff from two teams that, I think, would really rather not be here today.
4.55: There’s no extra-time tonight, by the way. Because of the time constrictions brought about by having a second match kick off an hour and a quarter after this one is scheduled to finish, it’ll be straight to penalties at 90 ninety minutes. On this display, I think that most people would be happy if it went to penalties now.
5.00: Forty minutes played, and both teams have had a shot on goal each. The only thing that I could think of that would liven proceedings up at the moment would be an angry bear. And it would have to be pretty damn angry.
5.02: GOAL: Ahly SC 1-0 Club America – A delightful twenty-five yard curling free-kick from Mohammed Aboutrika, over the wall, wide of the goalkeeper’s dive and into the corner. He did exactly the same against Auckland City.
5.06: Ahly deserve this because, despite their obvious limitations, they at least want it. Club America just look as if they can’t really be bothered. They’ve just put together about 20 consecutive passes, but the final ball was poor. And that’s it for this half. 1-0 Ahly, who have been the better of two pretty bad teams. More to follow in fifteen minutes. Let’s hope it’s not more of the same.
5.30: Oops! I appear to have missed the first five minutes of the second half. That’s what I get for joining the world’s longest queue to try and get a drink at half-time. Some things are just like home.
5.32: First real chance of the second half (as far as I know) to CA. Cuevas gets away down the left, and forces a good save from Abdelhamid.
5.34: CA are turning the screw a bit, and their supporters are starting to make a bit more noise, now. Abdelhamid saves well again – this time from a free-kick along the ground from someone. A minute or so later, Castro’s cross is deflected onto the back of the crossbar and away for a corner.
5.37: GOAL – Ahly SC 1-1 Club America: A fine run down the right wing from Blanco (who came on at half-time), who’s cross is headed in by Salvador Cabanas. Behind me, the Mexican commentator is singing, “Vamos, vamos America”.
5.42: Against a team like this, Blanco, although slightly out of shape, still looks like a class act. His vision is outstanding, and he still has just enough pace to be able to give the Ahly defenders a run for their money.
5.46: Expectation levels rise another notch. Claudio Lopez has come for Club America.. Ahly are having the better of the play at the moment, though. A good corner is flicked on at the near post and requires an excellent clearance by Vuono, though the reaction of the Ahly bench suggests that they though that he used his arm.
5.54: It’s all gone quiet here again, I’m afraid. We are only fourteen minutes away from a penalty shoot-out, though, which I’m moderately excited about.
5.55: A long ball over the top, and Claudio Lopez springs the offside trap, but can’t connect with it, and Abdelhamid gathers it, at the the second attempt.
5.58: GOAL – Ahly 2-1 Club America: A very simple goal for Ahly. Flavio’s pass along the ground is met by Aboutrika, who needs only one touch to roll the ball into the corner of the net. A little harsh on CA, considering the way things have been going in the second half. Aboutrika is the tournament’s top scorer with three goals now.
6.00: Almost straight the kick-off, CA have a chance to draw level. The ball is drifted across the penalty area towards Claudio Lopez, who attempts a deft flick, but succeeds only in missing the ball and allowing it to run through to (a doubtlessly relieved) Amir Abdelhamid.
6.07: Two minutes plus stoppage time for CA to rescue it. A decent cross from the left, but Lopez (again!) can’t quite get on the end of the ball.
6.10: Aboutrika has a chance to finish it off and claim his hat-trick, but his lob falls wide of the post.
FULL-TIME: Ahly 2-1 Club America – The impressive Mohammed Aboutrika was the clear difference between the two sides. The announcer is telling us that we should stay seated for the medal ceremony, but most people are already drifting away to get refreshments before the main event. Me? I’m off to try and find some loopy Brazilian fans before the Barca-Inter match. Back in an hour!