Chelsea are through to the final of the FIFA Club World Cup thanks to a shaky, narrow 1-0 victory over Saudi club Al Hilal on Wednesday. The Blues, Champions League winners, will face Copa Libertadores champs Palmeiras of Brazil in the final on Saturday.
The English club, without manager Thomas Tuchel after he tested positive for COVID-19, got a first-half goal from Romelu Lukaku to advance to their second ever Club World Cup final. The Blues advanced in 2012 but lost to Brazilian side Corinthians in the final, 1-0.
Facing a team coached by former AS Monaco man Leonardo Jardim, Chelsea did not look sharp, failing to convincingly beat a team who on paper shouldn’t have kept it close. With Christian Pulisic on the bench, Chelsea had 15 shots with only five on goal compared to Al Hilal’s 12 and three.
Here’s Lukaku’s first half goal, which came off of a poor clearance by the defense:
While Chelsea did control the ball and had their moments to put it away, they also needed a strong display from goalkeeper Kepa. The Spaniard had to make a couple crucial saves in the second half, including pushing one effort just wide after it looked set to be the equalizer.
The victory now sets the Blues up to to become the third English team to win the Club World Cup, if they can beat Palmeiras. Previously, both Liverpool (2019) and Manchester United (2008) have won the competition.
Kickoff for Saturday’s final is at 8 a.m. ET.