Flamengo 3 Al Hilal 1: Brilliant Bruno Henrique inspires Club World Cup turnaround for Libertadores winners

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Bruno Henrique ensured Flamengo did not suffer a shock loss in the Club World Cup semi-finals as they beat Al Hilal 3-1.
Bruno Henrique ensured Flamengo did not suffer a shock loss in the Club World Cup semi-finals as they beat Al Hilal 3-1.

Flamengo produced a second-half turnaround to reach the Club World Cup final with a 3-1 win over Al Hilal, keeping hopes of a meeting with Liverpool alive.

The Copa Libertadores champions went into Tuesday's clash in Doha as heavy favourites but were well below par in the first half, Salem Al Dawsari putting the Saudi Arabian side on possible course for a shock victory.

However, the AFC Champions League winners faded after the interval as an instrumental performance from Bruno Henrique inspired a Flamengo comeback.

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He teed up Giorgian de Arrascaeta for the equaliser soon after the restart and put Flamengo in front with a thumping header 12 minutes from time, before his cross made sure of success when Ali Hadi Albulayhi put through his own net.

Al Hilal then had Andre Carrillo sent off for a reckless challenge, Flamengo seeing out a win that could set up a rematch of their 1981 Intercontinental Cup defeat of Liverpool, who face Monterrey on Wednesday.

Flamengo were given an early warning in the 16th minute when Salem broke free down the left and forced a fine near-post save from Diego Alves. The ball broke to Bafetimbi Gomis, but the striker skied the rebound with an open goal in front of him.

Jorge Jesus' side did not learn their lesson from that scare, however, and Salem beat Alves two minutes later with a deflected strike after impressive work down the right from Mohammed Al-Burayk.

A response never looked like coming in a lacklustre first half from Flamengo, but they needed only three minutes of the second to level matters with a superbly worked team goal.

Gabriel Barbosa - the two-goal hero of their triumph in the Libertadores final - played an incisive pass into the box for Bruno Henrique, who unselfishly squared for De Arrascaeta to tap in.

Abdullah Al-Mayoof's goal was rarely threatened thereafter, but Flamengo found the killer ball in the 78th-minute as Rafinha's excellent right-wing cross was emphatically turned home by Bruno Henrique, who was celebrating again four minutes later.

Albulayhi could do nothing to avoid bundling Bruno Henrique's expertly placed delivery into his own net, with Al Hilal's frustration evident when Carrillo's moment of madness saw him rightly dismissed to end any hope of a dramatic twist in the tale.

 

What does it mean? Flamengo find their feet

For a side who have not been shy about claiming they can beat Liverpool, Flamengo made an extremely slow start and were thoroughly underwhelming in the first half. Whatever Jesus said at half-time clearly worked, though, as the Brazilians emerged a different team after the restart, and made sure there was to be no humiliating exit.

Bruno Henrique shines on big stage

Flamengo are blessed with significant riches of attacking talent, but it was Bruno Henrique who shone brightest for them and sparked the revival. He showed composure to set up De Arrascaeta, ruthlessness in converting Rafinha's cross, and precision in delivering the ball that was turned home by the unfortunate Albulayhi to settle the contest.

Gomis gaffe proves costly

The former Lyon, Swansea City and Galatasaray striker scored the winner against ES Tunis in the second round but a first-half miss on this occasion was dreadful and ultimately proved crucial as Flamengo only had to overturn a one-goal deficit.

What's next?

Flamengo wait to see if they will take on the UEFA Champions League winners and Premier League leaders Liverpool or CONCACAF Champions League holders Monterrey. Al Hilal will also be paying close attention to that clash, as they will meet the loser in the third-place play-off.

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