World Football - Neymar stars as Santos reach final

Wed, 14 Dec 12:24:00 2011

Santos secured a place in the final of the Club World Cup in Japan as three goals of the highest order, the first of which was scored by Neymar, saw them defeat Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 at Toyota Stadium.

Neymar - 0

Neymar was the star attraction for the South American champions and the Brazil international, 19, did not disappoint when scoring a brilliant effort after 19 minutes. Later strikes from Borges and the impressive Danilo were equally as eye-catching.

However, Barcelona, who lie in wait in the final if they can defeat Asian champions Al-Sadd in the second semi-final, will have been encouraged by some poor defending from the Brazilians, as Hiroki Sakai drew a goal back and Reysol struck the post in an entertaining contest.

Santos qualified for the tournament thanks to their victory in the 2011 Copa Libertadores, their first triumph in the South American competition since Pele inspired them to back-to-back titles in 1962 and 1963.

In both of those years they also won the Intercontinental Cup and if they are to triumph at the Club World Cup in Japan then that success will likely hinge on the form of a player who Pele himself has described as better than Lionel Messi.

That player is of course Neymar, the prodigiously talented teenager, who has scored eight goals in 15 games for Brazil and last summer turned down moves to Chelsea and Real Madrid in order to help Santos celebrate their centenary next year.

Inside the first minute the forward was pulling out the tricks, juggling the ball and then dazzling another opponent with a repertoire of stepovers.

After just six minutes he should have put Santos in front. Reysol defender Naoya Kondo made a horrible mess of an attempted clearance and saw the ball drop into the path of Neymar, who poked his shot against the upright.

However, after 19 minutes he did find himself on the scoresheet, and in spectacular fashion. Fellow Brazil international Ganso slipped a pass into Neymar and the forward produced a lovely drag-back to send Hidekazu Otani the wrong way before bending a perfect shot into the top corner from 20 yards.

To underline that this contest was not just the Neymar show, striker Borges scored a glorious effort of his own just four minutes later. He collected the ball on the edge of the box, drifted past two opponents and thumped a firm effort into the top corner, celebrating with some amateur acrobatics.

Reysol grew into the contest though and threatened the Santos goal with a succession of free-kicks, Brazilians Wagner and Leandro both looking dangerous against their countrymen. The latter forced Rafael into a smart stop before the former almost caught the Santos keeper out with a free-kick.

When Danilo - the Santos right-back who has agreed to join Porto after this tournament - was then caught out of position on a cross, he recovered superbly to block Wagner's shot from inside the box to keep Santos two goals in front.

Danilo looked lively again in the early stages of the second half when he raced onto a glorious Neymar pass and saw his effort saved by Reysol keeper Takanori Sugeno. Neymar also teed up Ganso for a fine curling effort after a flowing move from the Brazilian side.

However, Santos always looked vulnerable at the back and conceded on 54 minutes when Hiroki Sakai rose to meet a corner from the left from Leandro and planted a firm header out of the reach of Rafael in the Santos goal.

The response from Santos was swift, and it came from the hugely impressive Danilo. Lining up a free-kick from at least 30 yards, the right-back bent a superb effort around the wall and just inside the post to restore Santos' two-goal lead.

Still the Brazilians looked unconvincing at the back though and Santos could have been reduced to 10 men when Henrique was fortunate just to receive a yellow card when hauling back Leandro as the Reysol striker looked set to burst through on goal.

The Japanese side then struck the post from a tight angle before substitute Masakatsu Sawa was guilty of a glaring miss at the back post when meeting a firm cross on 81 minutes.

Santos always possessed an attacking threat, demonstrated again on 84 minutes when substitute Ibson smacked a fine effort off the bar, but Barcelona will have been encouraged by the defensive frailties on display from the South Americans as they plot their route to the final.

Tom Adams - @tomEurosport / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account