Lukaku strike earns Chelsea spot in Club World Cup final

February 9, 2022 Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku shoots at goal REUTERS

A first-half Romelu Lukaku strike earned Chelsea a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal on Wednesday to seal a spot in the Club World Cup final.

The European champions will face Brazilian side Palmeiras on Saturday in the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi after Belgian striker Lukaku fired home from close range in the 32nd minute.

Without coach Thomas Tuchel on the touchline, after he tested positive for COVID-19, the Blues looked in control in the first half, fully deserving their lead at the break.

However, Asian champions Al Hilal improved a great deal in the second half, with Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga pulling off several fine saves to keep them at bay.

Chelsea threatened to add a late second, but Lukaku's strike proved to be enough, as they booked their place in the final of a competition they have never won.

Tuchel's team started brightly in Abu Dhabi, with Hakim Ziyech, who has forced his way back into the Chelsea side in recent weeks, going close from the edge of the box early on.

Lukaku then saw a powerful strike well saved, before making no mistake from five metres out, after a Kai Havertz cross fell to him off Al Hilal's Yasser Al-Shahrani.

The Blues owed goalkeeper Arrizabalaga, standing in for first-choice stopper Edouard Mendy who has just returned from the Africa Cup of Nations, a great debt as they seemed to tire as the match wore on.

The Spaniard made a fine block to keep out Moussa Marega's effort, before the pick of his saves -- a stunning one-handed stop -- prevented Mohamed Kanno from getting Al Hilal back into the contest.

Mason Mount should have made it two late on, but Chelsea saw out the win in relative comfort.