76 min: City nearly score again, this time it’s Alvarez, teed up by Bobb, who gets to the byline and cuts it back for a close-range shot for his teammate. The Urawa Reds defence is increasingly ragged.
73 min: I’ve never been to Sante Fe but I have been to Albuquerque, where relatives of mine used to run a fish restaurant. True story.
The intriguingly-named city of Truth or Consequences is just down the road.
69 min: Bobb, who scored his first goal for City against Red Star last week, hammers a shot from just inside the area that flies wide. Guardiola holds his hands aloft as he applauds. Then more smart work from Bobb in the Urawa penalty area a minute or so later.
67 min: A couple of minutes ago there was another scare at the back for City. Someone lost it, then someone on the other team had it, then someone from City booted it clear. Sorry, I didn’t really see it, as I was trying to look at the substitutions.
65 min: Changes for City. Alvarez, Gvardiol and Oscar Bobb come on – Silva, Akanji and Foden off.
Linssen, Nakajima, Schalk and Ogiwara are all on for Urawa Reds.
64 min: “The collective groan heard across Santa Fe when Bernardo Silva stabbed home the killer goal had officials considering canceling Christmas celebrations in the Plaza,” emails Richard Short. “Only to be convinced otherwise by that wonderful video of a young Christian Bale singing about their city. Christmas will indeed happen in New Mexico, albeit without the Urawa bunting as previously planned.”
63 min: Jeff Sax got in touch earlier: “This is such an irrelevant competition.”
A few minutes later, Joe Pearson pipes up: “Not to go all Jeff Sax on you, but this competition is a joke.”
Akanji plays a good ball up to the feet of Nunes from the back. Yawning gaps are opening in the opposition defence, whereas in the first half there were none. Nunes has time to turn and power a good on-target shot which is parried by Nishikawa at a decent height for the keeper … But the ball drops to Bernardo Silva in the penalty area, who finishes unfussily, tucking the ball in the corner via a deflection off Hoibraten.
Definitely game over.
55 min: Grealish has his marker on toast down the City left. He hangs up an excellent cross to the far post. Nunes is there to meet it, but his header lacks conviction, and accuracy, and everything you could want from a header, really. It squirts out beyond the far post. It should be 3-0 and game over, if it isn’t already. Nunes was in the six-yard box with the goal at his mercy.
Walker advances from the right-back position, angling his run towards the centre of the pitch, and promptly stabs a sensational low through-ball between the opposing centre-backs, which Kovacic is able to run on to into space. The former Chelsea man is one-on-one in the penalty area, and coolly picks his spot, fairly smashing a very controlled finish into the roof of the net over the right shoulder of the helpless Nishikawa.
50 min: City pick up where they left off, pressing high up the pitch, with the added detail of actually having the ball at their disposal. Classic Pep vibes. Rodri looks for Bernardo Silva with an angled ball but it’s overhit.
49 min: “Dreams come true, yeah they do, in Santa Fe!,” emails Harriet Osborn.
Can you imagine the collective disgust across Sante Fe when that own-goal went in, though?
46 min: A little early scare for City, Kante popping up with the ball in the area, with the time to swivel and shoot from the around the penalty spot. A City boot is in the way, though.
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An excellent defensive display from the Asian champions – and they so nearly made it to half time level – but Hoibraten’s OG is the difference at half time. City have been dominant, and deserve their lead.
Nunes sneaks in on the right flank for City courtesy of a slide-rule pass by Bernardo Silva. He squares the ball to no one in particular, and at the near post Hoibraten unwisely stabs at the ball in trying to intercept, or clear. There is plenty of pace on the ball and the Norwegian defender succeeds only in diverting the ball into the net. Nishikawa is unlucky: he’s been exceptional in the first half, and it took an unfortunate own-goal to beat him.
There it is!
44 min: Now Grealish is nearly in on the left for City. Again, there are Urawa bodies in the way and a goal kick is the result.
43 min: Kante, the willing lone runner up front for Urawa Reds, makes a dart looking for a long ball but City snuff out the danger.
42 min: “Got it streaming on the phone!,” emails Richard Short, from the U.S. of A.
“I’m sure everyone else in New Mexico will be as grateful as I am for that info, Yngve! Santa Fe is pretty much at a standstill tuning in to this Red Diamond rearguard.”
Dancing in the streets of Sante Fe. Potentially.
40 min: An email titled “Fluminense fan here”, from Ian Cook:
“I’ve been a fan of the Guardian’s minute-by-minute match reports since the 2002 World Cup (yes, those times when finding some obscure website streaming the game to watch while at work were not a possibility!). Looking forward to the first ever MBM coverage of my beloved Fluminense – hope the Guardian will provide us with such a treat even if City does not make it to the final!”
Thanks Ian. Yes, there will a final MBM.
37 min: Guardiola is pictured clapping enthusiastically, urging his players on. They’ve not been terrible but they certainly don’t look to be in top gear. Haaland is now pictured in close-up on the big screens in the stadium and there is a big cheer from the crowd. Then it’s De Bruyne’s turn. Another big cheer. Out on the pitch, Nishikawa makes another save from Nunes. The score is nil-nil.
36 min: Normal service is resumed with City bodies massing around the Reds’ box. Foden belts a left-footed shot with power from the edge of the penalty area. Nishikawa is equal to it again, parrying the shot away to safety.
35 min: Suddenly, Urawa Reds are making a couple of forays into the City half. Ederson is forced to advance out of his area to intercept a ball over the top.
34 min: Okubo sprints down the right wing for the Reds, chasing a decent long ball by Sekine. Ake slides in and makes a good full-blooded challenge to arrest his progress.
31 min: Nishikawa is called on to make another save, this time from Nunes. It’s a good save too from a powerful half-volley from close range. He bats it out for a corner, taken by Grealish. The score stubbornly remains 0-0.
30 min: A very useful public service announcement, via email from Yngve Digernes, intended for our reader(s) in Sante Fe, New Mexico:
“The match can be viewed online for free on the FIFA website.”
28 min: Foden skips past a couple of would-be tacklers with some typically fast feet. He is crowded out in the penalty area, but when the ball is half-cleared it is only on to the chest of Rodri, who loves a shot from distance. It flies wide the referee reckons it takes a nick of a defender and it’s a corner. From that corner, Rodri has yet another shot. But the score remains 0-0.
27 min: “Great to see a fitting stage for Dutchman Alex Schalk on the bench for Urawa Red Diamonds,” emails Jez Smith. “He scored Ross County’s winner in the Scottish League Cup final in 2016.
“He later joined Servette in Switzerland where I had the pleasure of watching him. He forever endeared himself to Servette fans with a one-finger salute to Sion fans as his celebration after scoring against Servette’s arch rivals.
“A lot of us were disappointed when he left Switzerland but it’s good to see him on the world stage, where he already scored the winner against León.”
25 min: Akanji is booked for pulling back Yasui, who is surging into space with pace and intent around the halfway line. A good, old-fashioned Pep Guardiola tactical foul there. Urawa Reds should be flattered/delighted.
22 min: “Rushed home here in Santa Fe, New Mexico to watch the Club World Cup Semifinal (despite Sunderland’s continued absence?),” emails Richard Short. “Not airing on American television so … staring at your updates instead!”
Welcome aboard, Richard. You are not missing much at the moment.
20 min: Urawa Reds are managed by a Pole: Maciej Skorza, who possesses an impressively long managerial career path, is pictured urging his players on from his technical area. They have started well and are defending solidly.
17 min: There are, of course, no replays in this mid-season tournament. We will have extra time and penalties if it’s all square at the end.
Grealish and Bernardo Silva link yet again. This time, Grealish is out on the left wing and he floats a good ball into the area, volleyed by the Portuguese as it drops over his shoulder, but the effort is straight at Nishikawa.
16 min: Having said that about the crowd, the Urawa Reds fans can be heard singing and the TNT commentator mentions the insatiable drummer. Maybe it’s the audio mix on the telly that is making it sound empty …
14 min: The atmosphere sounds pretty flat, and there are a few empty seats visible. The football, for now, is failing to fire the imagination. Urawa Reds are content to pack the defence and soak up pressure.
Now Grealish feeds Bernardo Silva, who cracks a shot over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area.
13 min: Bernardo Silva and Grealish link in the Reds’ penalty area. Grealish bangs a shot looking for the far post which is blocked.
10 min: There are one or two slightly nervy moments for City in defence – a back pass for Ederson is left a bit short and he ends up having to tackle Kante, who is charging in with intent.
9 min: An email!
“Red Diamonds? I suppose it’s fitting that Stones will feature on Ruby Tuesday.”
That was from Peter Oh. Feel free to email me.
8 min: Rodri slams a low shot goalwards from distance that flashes past an upright.
7 min: Kovacic tucks a ball to Grealish on the overlap, charging down the left-hand side of the penalty area as City are attacking. He takes a heavy touch but manages to keep it in. Anyway, City are starting to dominate.
5 min: Ake floats an imperious angled crossfield ball to Foden, lofting it over the midfielders from around the left-back position. City are starting to get their passing patterns going. Then Akanji looks for Kovacic with a long ball through the middle. Nishikawa comes out of his goal to gather it.
4 min: On co-commentary, Robbie Savage kindly tells us that this is a competition Pep Guardiola wants to win. Not an awful lot happening on the pitch at the moment. City have had more of the ball.
2 min: Strong pressing from Urawa to begin and City get in a bit of a defensive muddle, losing the ball when trying to play out from the back. A cross is curled to the far post but Guardiola’s men manage to deal with it.
Here we go.
Haaland and De Bruyne are pictured up in the stands. We’re about to kick off …
Anyway, football politics and/or geopolitics aside, the match is roughly five minutes away. The players are lining up in the tunnel. The Urawa Reds players are mostly hugging and high-fiving demonstratively.
The Club World Cup, of course, is expanding to 32 teams from 2025.
Bernardo Silva said yesterday the schedule is already “crazy” and mentioned, pointedly, that the players were not consulted on the decision:
The expectation is that Manchester City, assuming they shake off their domestic malaise and beat Urawa Red Diamonds in the semi-final on Tuesday, will become the competition’s 11th successive European winner. Much of the subtext around this month’s event, though, has involved the shifting of power elsewhere.
A pleasant shot of King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, tonight’s venue. Definitely not Bootham Crescent.
This is all a very long way from Bootham Crescent. Will Unwin charts the rise of Manchester City from the club’s lowest point, 25 years ago …
Four changes for City, with Stones, Akanji, Kovacic and Nunes coming into the starting side. Phil Foden plays up top on his own with Grealish, Nunes and Silva behind. It smells of goals …
Urawa Reds: Nishikawa; Hoibraten, Scholz, Sekine, Akimoto, Ito, Iwao, Koizumi, Okubo, Yasui, Kante. Substitutes: Niekawa, Yoshida, Sakai, Iwanami, Ogiwara, Ayumu, Nakajima, Shibato, Panya, Linssen, Schalk, Koroki.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Ederson; Ake, Akanji, Stones, Walker (capt.); Rodri, Kovacic; Grealish, Nunes, Bernardo Silva; Foden. Substitutes: Ortega Moreno, Carson, Dias, Phillips, Alvarez, Gomez, Gvardiol, Bobb, Alleyne, Susoho, Lewis, Hamilton.
Manchester City won the lot last season – Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup – but becoming club world champions in Saudi Arabia this week would complete the full set following their all-conquering 2022-23 campaign.
Under normal circumstances this semi-final against Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan, who edged past León of Mexico to reach this point, is a match Pep Guardiola’s side would approach with cast-iron confidence. But City’s recent form has been rather less than all-conquering and their Japanese opponents may fancy staging an upset against a side held to a draw by Crystal Palace on Saturday.
City have won just once in six Premier League games, have gone eight matches without a clean sheet following the 2-2 draw with Palace, and are of course without Erling Haaland who is recovering from a foot injury. Will this be a confidence-boosting stroll into Friday’s final, where Fluminense await, or an anxiety-inducing struggle for Pep and his players? We are about to find out.
Kick-off: 6pm GMT