Man City cruise to first Club World Cup triumph

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia: Manchester City won the Club World Cup for the first time to end 2023 with five trophies after a 4-0 win over Fluminense in Jeddah on Friday.

City's victory extended European clubs' domination of the competition since 2012 and was never in doubt once Julian Alvarez opened the scoring inside the first minute.

Nino's first-half own goal realistically ended the Brazilians' dreams of an upset, before Phil Foden and Alvarez rounded off the scoring in the final 20 minutes.

After clinching the treble of the club's first ever Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup last season, City also lifted the UEFA Super Cup for the first time in August.

Pep Guardiola also made history as the first coach to lift the Club World Cup on four occasions and with three different clubs after previously winning the competition twice at Barcelona and once in charge of Bayern Munich.

"To win the treble was truly special, but to win two more trophies and now hold these five major titles shows the unique mentality of this team," said Guardiola.

"As a manager it is what I am most proud of: that we are always there. No matter how much we win, no matter what trophies we lift, we are there again to fight for the next one."

City's poor Premier League form before flying out to Saudi Arabia had raised Fluminense hopes that Guardiola's men could be vulnerable.

But the growing chasm between Europe's elite clubs and the rest of the world thanks to huge financial imbalances in the global game was instead exposed.

European clubs have won 22 consecutive games at the Club World Cup.

City laboured for 45 minutes to break down Japan's Urawa Reds in the semi-final before cruising to a 3-0 win.

This time, they needed less than 45 seconds.

Alvarez scored the fastest goal ever in a Club World Cup final as he chested into an unguarded net after Nathan Ake's shot came back off the post.

At just 23, the Argentine added to his remarkable haul of silverware that includes the World Cup and Copa America at international level, the Copa Libertadores during his time at River Plate, plus Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and UEFA Super Cup medals during just over a year at City.

Fluminense were then dealt the killer blow when captain Nino turned Foden's cross into his own net after Rodri's pass opened up the Brazilian defence.

Ederson was called into action to maintain City's two-goal lead before the break as the Brazilian international made a stunning save from Jhon Arias' header.

But his opposite number Fabio was the busier goalkeeper. The 37-year-old kept the score down and saved Fluminense's blushes.

Fabio turned Jack Grealish's fiercely struck effort behind before half-time and twice denied Foden early in the second half.

City were able to coast through the second period to end a glorious year on a high, but victory could come at a cost.

Rodri was forced off with an injury 20 minutes from time. City have lost all three Premier League games this season when the influential Spanish midfielder has been absent and they travel to in-form Everton on December 27.

However, that did not take the shine off a marquee 12 months that marks the high-point in a trophy-laden 15 years since City's fortunes were transformed by a takeover from Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Alvarez was the creator for City's third as Foden slid in to meet his driven cross.

And the man deputising for the injured Erling Haaland rounded off the scoring two minutes from time with his 10th goal of the season. --AFP

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