Al Ahly turned on the style in the second half to sweep aside Karim Benzema’s Al-Ittihad 3-1 and secure a place in the FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals.

Benzema missed a penalty that would have levelled the score at 1-1 just before half-time and the Saudi Pro League champions paid a heavy price for the wastefulness of their France striker.

Ali Maaloul had fired Al Ahly ahead from the spot – both penalties were awarded for handball – but it was the period after half-time that set the Egyptians apart.

First to strike at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium was Hussein El Shahat with a curling shot into right of the goal that gave keeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf no chance.

And then came a slick finish by Emam Ashour after he had presented with a cutback by Kahraba.

Al Ahly suffered a late setback when Anthony Modeste was sent off for use of the elbow, meaning he will not be available for the semi-final against Fluminense, before Benzema grabbed a late consolation.

Karim Benzema created Club World Cup history by becoming the first player to score in four editions of the tournament as Al-Ittihad booked their place in the second round.

The former France international netted for the Saudi Pro League outfit as they won their first-round tie with Auckland City 3-0.

Benzema, who has enjoyed success in this competition with Real Madrid, put the finishing touches on victory that sets up a second-round match with Al Ahly.

The game was won with three goals in 11 first-half minutes.

Romarinho opened the scoring in the 29th minute with a deflected effort before former Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante doubled the lead five minutes later.

Benzema completed the scoring frenzy in the 40th minute to set up Friday’s tie with the African champions.

Liverpool are determined to rebuff further approaches from Al-Ittihad for Mohamed Salah but the next few days are likely to prove every bit of the challenge manager Jurgen Klopp predicted.

Mike Gordon, president of owners Fenway Sports Group, politely but firmly rejected the Saudi Pro League’s offer of a £150million deal for the Egypt international and declared the matter closed as far as the club were concerned.

However, with the Pro League’s transfer window open until Thursday, there is the very real prospect Al-Ittihad will return with an improved bid which will have even more of a destabilising effect.

Which is why Klopp again expressed his concern about the discrepancy as “nobody (in Europe) can react any more”.

When Saudi interest in the 31-year-old first reared its head last month, the Egyptian’s agent Ramy Abbas wrote on Twitter on August 7: “If we considered leaving LFC this year, we wouldn’t have renewed the contract last summer. Mohamed remains committed to LFC.”

Abbas has not been as forthcoming this time around and although the Salah bid has undoubtedly loomed large over preparations for Sunday’s visit of Aston Villa, Klopp said he had seen “absolutely nothing” to worry about and that Salah was “super-committed”.

However, this week’s developments look like the start of a long goodbye for Salah, who will be 32 next summer and in the final year of his £350,000-a-week contract – which easily makes him the highest-paid player in the club’s history – with Liverpool more likely to be amenable to a sale at that point.

While the focus of Salah, who has scored scored 138 goals in 221 Premier League appearances, has never been in doubt, Klopp also believes fellow forward Darwin Nunez has a renewed drive following his match-winning two-goal appearance off the bench at Newcastle last week.

“Massive, massive, that’s clear. That’s what he wants, what we want,” Klopp said of the effect it would have on the Uruguay international, who started the season as fifth-choice forward.

“It’s exactly how it should have been – being a massive threat. You could, of course, see it the next day. But everybody could feel it.”

Villa have impressed under Unai Emery this season as, after an opening-day defeat at Newcastle, they have won four successive matches in all competitions.

“Aston Villa is a machine – counter-attack, good organised, everyone committed 100 per cent. When they defend deep then they defend with their all and from there they go,” said Klopp.

“It’s a massive game, no doubt about it. Yeah, we have to play a top game to get something out of it.

“After that it is the international break, so we could make a good start (and) turn it into a really good start to the season result-wise.

“But there are a massive 115 minutes in between now and then.”

What the papers say

With the transfer deadline looming, Premier League sides are making their final moves as the clock ticks down to September 1. According to the Daily Mail, one of the big moves could see a star name leave the Premier League, with Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad gearing up for a £118million bid for Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah, 31. The Daily Star reports that Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp would be “furious” if the move went ahead.

The Daily Mirror reports Manchester United are keen to nab a midfielder before the transfer window closes, with Sofyan Amrabat, 27, their prime target. The Daily Mail reports Fiorentina have turned down a £1.7million loan deal but would consider a deal with an obligation to buy.

One player who could be on his way out of Old Trafford is English defender Teden Mengi. Luton are close to signing him, according to the Daily Mail.

Tottenham’s move for Wales forward Brennan Johnson, 22, from Nottingham Forest has stalled, according to The Independent. Crystal Palace’s Eberechi Eze, 25, has emerged as a new target.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Callum Hudson-Odoi: Nottingham Forest are close to a deal for the England winger, 22, from Chelsea, according to the Guardian.

James McAtee: Manchester City’s England Under-21s midfielder could return for a second loan spell at Sheffield United, who are leading the chase for him, according to Football Insider.

Liverpool midfielder Fabinho has been left out of the squad travelling to their training camp in Germany after the club received an official bid for the player.

The PA news agency understands a £40million offer for the Brazil international has been made by Al-Ittihad, one of four Saudi Arabian clubs owned by the country’s Public Investment Fund.

Receipt of a “serious, official” offer prompted discussions within the club which resulted in a decision, taken in consultation with Fabinho, to withdraw the player from the squad which flew out on Saturday.

Captain Jordan Henderson, who has also been the subject of speculation linking him to a reported £700,000-a-week offer from Al-Ettifaq – managed by former team-mate Steven Gerrard – has travelled with the squad as there has been no bid for him as yet.

N’Golo Kante will join Saudi club Al-Ittihad when his Chelsea contract expires at the end of June, the club has confirmed.

The 32-year-old midfielder joined from Leicester in 2016 and has won the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup during his time at Stamford Bridge.

He had been an integral part of the Foxes’ surprise title success under Claudio Ranieri after arriving in England from Caen in 2015, just two years after having played in the French fourth tier.

Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley told the club website: “N’Golo’s impact and influence during his time at Chelsea cannot be overstated. His tireless performances in midfield contributed to several trophy wins and has guaranteed him a place in the club’s history.

“We wish him well as he embarks on the next chapter in his career.”

His final season at the club was blighted by injury. He required hamstring surgery in October and was unavailable to former manager Graham Potter until March, in all making only seven Premier League appearances across the campaign.

He becomes the first major departure since Mauricio Pochettino was confirmed as the club’s new manager, with a reduction in size of a bloated first-team squad amongst the Argentinean’s priorities.

Kante, who won the World Cup with France in Russia in 2018, becomes the latest in a succession of high-profile names to move to the Saudi Professional League.

His international team-mate Karim Benzema has already agreed to join Al-Ittihad after 14 seasons at Real Madrid, following Cristiano Ronaldo who moved to Al Nassr from Manchester United in December.

Wolves captain Ruben Neves has reportedly agreed a £47million move to Al Hilal with an announcement expected from the club this week.

At 26 he will be the youngest big name to leave a European club for Saudi Arabia.

Chelsea outcasts Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy, Romelu Lukaku and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have also been linked with moves to the Gulf state.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.