Urawa to face Man City at Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia. Benzema Penalty Saved as Al-Ittihad Exits.

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Urawa Reds’ fans cheer for their team prior to the Soccer Club World Cup second round soccer match between Club Leon and Urawa Reds at Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Dec. 15, 2023.

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Karim Benzema had a penalty saved in Al-Ittihad’s loss at the Club World Cup on Friday and the Saudi Arabian champion exited its home tournament before Manchester City and Fluminense even arrived.

Benzema’s spot kick to level against Al Ahly in the 45th minute was hit too straight at goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy, and the champion of Africa from Egypt went on to beat Al-Ittihad 3-1 in their second-round game.

Al Ahly will next play Fluminense, the champion of South America from Brazil, in the semifinals on Monday and Champions League winner Man City will play Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan on Tuesday.

Urawa beat León of Mexico, the CONCACAF Champions League titleholder, 1-0 in the earlier game on Friday in Jeddah, the Red Sea port city that has been home to Benzema since joining Al-Ittihad in June after 14 years at Real Madrid.

A crowd of 56,111 at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium included a big contingent of fans backing Al Ahly from Cairo, who saw their team take a lead in the 21st when Ali Maaloul scored from a penalty awarded for handball.

After Benzema’s miss from the spot, Al Ahly added second-half goals from Hussein Elsahat and Emam Ashour. Benzema cut the lead with a goal in stoppage time.

Urawa’s win was sealed with a 78th-minute goal by Dutch forward Alex Schalk, who squeezed a low, angled shot past advancing León goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota.

Schalk’s journey from his native Netherlands to Japan took him via the north of Scotland, where he spent three seasons at Ross County, and to Switzerland with Servette, where the first of his four years was in the second division.

Urawa earned its place at the seven-team Club World Cup by winning the Asian Champions League in February, beating Saudi club Al-Hilal in the final. Al-Hilal has since spent lavishly on players from European clubs including Neymar, Aleksandar Mitrović and Ruben Neves.

The last Club World Cup in the traditional short format for continental champions plus the host nation’s domestic league winner is the first to be played in Saudi Arabia, in two stadiums in Jeddah.

The attendance on Friday was 2,525 at Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium to see Urawa’s win. More than 50,000 saw Al-Ittihad beat Oceania champion Auckland City 3-0 on Tuesday in the tournament opener.

The next Club World Cup in June-July 2025 will be a relaunch with 32 teams — the 12 from Europe will include recent Champions League winners Man City, Real Madrid and Chelsea — and played in the United States. The event will then be played every four years, in the year before men’s World Cups.