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Dudu inspires Palmeiras to Club World Cup final

Abu Dhabi (AFP) – Dudu scored one goal and created another as Palmeiras defeated Al Ahly 2-0 on Tuesday to reach the Club World Cup final and set up a potential showdown with Chelsea.

The playmaker released Raphael Veiga for the opening goal just before half-time and then fired in a second for Copa Libertadores winners Palmeiras early in the second half.

The Brazilian side await the winner of Wednesday’s second semi-final between Chelsea and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, the record four-time Asian champions.

Roughly two-thirds of the 15,000-seat Al Nahyan Stadium was occupied by green-clad Palmeiras fans, many of whom made the 12,000-kilometre trip from Sao Paulo, for a repeat of last year’s third-place play-off won on penalties by Al Ahly.

Midfielder Amr El Solia was rushed back into the Al Ahly team less than 48 hours after he started Egypt’s loss to Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations final.

An attritional first half required a touch of brilliance from Dudu to break it open, his deft flick from Danilo’s pass sending Veiga clear to slot beyond Aly Lotfy.

Dudu doubled the lead four minutes after half-time as he drifted forward unchallenged from the halfway line before slamming a fierce shot past Lofty from a tight angle.

African champions Al Ahly appeared to have pulled a goal back when Mohamed Sherif tapped in the rebound after Palmeiras goalkeeper Weverton spilled Ahmed Abdelkader’s tame strike, but it was ruled out for offside.

Al Ahly’s slim hopes were all but extinguished when captain Ayman Ashraf was sent off for a terrible tackle on Rony, his initial yellow card changed to red following a VAR review.

Walid Soliman headed against the bar deep into stoppage time, moments after Weverton clawed away an effort from Mohamed Hany, the hero of Al Ahly’s win over Monterrey in the previous round.

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