A delightful goal by substitute Bafetimbi Gomis gave Asian champions Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal a 1-0 win over their African counterparts Esperance and took them into the Club World Cup semi-finals on Saturday.
The former Swansea City, Olympique Lyonnais and Galatasaray player ran onto a ball between the Esperance defense, flicked it over Mohamed Ali Yacoubi’s sliding challenge and, without letting it touch the ground, fired into the far corner in the 73rd minute.
The Frenchman, who was top scorer in the Asian Champions League with 11 goals, had only been on the field for eight minutes before his strike earned the Saudi Arabian side a match against South American champions Flamengo on Tuesday.
Esperance have been knocked out in their first match all three times they have taken part in the competition.
The Tunisian side, backed by a noisy contingent of fans who managed to evade a ban on pyrotechnics, had the first real chance after the Al Hilal defense lost the ball, but Anice Badri shot wide with the goalkeeper out of his ground.
Carlos Eduardo wasted Al Hilal’s first opening when he took a heavy first touch after Andre Carillo sent him clear, and his shot was smothered by goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia.
Carillo himself went close when his shot was tipped up in the air by Ben Cherifia and a defender headed the ball away.
Esperance were nearly gifted a goal after halftime when Al Hilal’s Yasser Al-Shahrani slid in to intercept a pass through the middle but sent the ball looping towards his own goal and goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf clawed it away just in time.
Gomis finally broke the deadlock, while Al Hilal had to play the last few minutes with 10 men after Mohamed Kanno was given two yellow cards in quick succession and sent off.