Winning start for Corinthians
SAO PAULO, Brazil, Jan 6: Corinthians of Brazil defeated African champions Raja Casablanca of Morocco 2-0 in the World Club Championship here Wednesday to ensure that the first day of this groundbreaking tournament went according to the formbook, reports AFP.
But the match ended in fierce controversy following the decision of Italian referee Stefano Braschi to allow the home side's clinching second goal when it had clearly not crossed the goalline.
Goals from Luizao after 50 minutes and that controversial second from Fabio Luciano 15 minutes later ensured that the Brazilian outfit playing in their home city saw off Casablanca as Group A already starts to resemble a two-horse race.
It took 50 minutes for Corinthians to break the deadlock much to the relief of the partisan crowd who were beginning to show signs of nerves.
A Corinthians midfield consisting of Colombian Freddy Rincon and Vampeta was finding it hard to break down a well-organised Raja Casablanca team, who were clearly looking to stifle their opponents while the normally commanding Edilson failed to impress for the hosts, missing the best chance of the first half.
The first goal, when it came, was a well-worked affair, though. Marcelinho Carioca did all the hard work on the right flank crossing the ball to the far post where Luizao finished the move with a flourish from close range.
The goal had the desired effect and opened up the match but the second goal ignited a huge row.
Fabio Luciano's shot hit the bar and bounced down but clearly did not cross the line by some considerable distance and the Casablanca defence cleared the loose ball.
Polish linesman Jacek Pociegiel stood his ground rather than run back to the centre circle, making it clear it was no goal but Braschi overruled his colleague and awarded a goal.
The Moroccan players were understandably upset by the decision but the goal killed the game and Corinthians slowed down the match, clearly thinking ahead to their match with Real Madrid, which will probably decide the group.
In fairness to the winners Raja rarely threatened the Corinthians goal with Brazilian international keeper Dida, one of the heroes of the Copa America winning side last summer, having a very quiet evening.
Three Casablanca players Abdellatif Jrindou, Adil Sarraj and Youssef Misbah were cautioned.
The match between Corinthians and Spain's Real Madrid is now likely to decide which team from that pool will qualify for the final of the first tournament to pit clubs from every continent against eachother.
Another Brazilian team Vasco da Gama and the unofficial reigning world champions Manchester United are seen as frontrunners for Group B, which also contains Mexican champions Necaxa and Australian outfit South Melbourne.
Real, 3-1 victors over Saudi Arabian outfit Al Nassr earlier in the day, head Pool A on goals scored with Corinthians second.
However, organisers will be disappointed at the relatively low attendance at the Corinthians match, provisionally estimated at 17,000.