Urawa advance to FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals with win over Club León

Urawa advance to FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals with win over Club León

Urawa Reds are into the final four of the FIFA Club World Cup after beating Mexico’s Club León, 1-0. Alex Schalk came off the bench to score the game’s lone goal, sending Urawa into the semi-finals where they will meet England’s Manchester City.

Urawa earned their place in the Club World Cup by winning the AFC Champions League, while León won the Concacaf Champions League, and this battle of continental champions started out very cagey.

Neither club could find a way through the other, with both midfields bringing tough tackling and tireless running that broke up many attempted forays forward. The match proved physical, with the Reds content to play a defensive gameplan.

Leaning upon their Meiji Yasuda J1 League-best back line, Urawa were comfortable with a more cautious and conservative state of affairs, but they started to find a little more opportunity going forward in the second half as they introduced some dynamic substitutes.

One of those reinforcements from the bench, Schalk, entered the match in the 73rd minute and immediately turned the match. The Dutch forward's lively energy began to create openings and eventually led to the breakthrough five minutes after coming on.

Reds striker José Kanté calmly slotted the ball behind the Mexican club's backline to Schalk, who slid the ball just by the onrushing Rodolfo Cota in goal for the 1-0 lead.

But Schalk's work wasn't done there, as he sealed the victory by drawing a second yellow card on León defender William Tesillo. With the Reds up a goal and a man, the match was squarely in their hands, and they saw out the win.

The final whistle ended the physical, taxing match, and the team celebrated with the impressive Reds traveling support, but there will be little time before the hard work begins again for Urawa.

Next up is a semi-final date with UEFA Champions League holders Manchester City on Tuesday, as the Asian champions aim to become world champions.