Soccer-Flamengo blame Club World Cup loss on refereeing, coach says

Soccer Football - Club World Cup - Semi Final - Flamengo v Al Hilal - Grand Stade de Tanger, Tangier, Morocco - February 7, 2023 Flamengo's Pedro scores their second goal REUTERS/Andrew Boyers

TANGIER (Reuters) - Flamengo manager Vitor Pereira blamed his side's stunning 3-2 loss to Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal in Club World Cup semi-final on Tuesday on the refereeing, which according to the Portuguese manager, was one sided.

Al Hilal won thanks to two penalties from Salem Al Dawsari and a close-range strike from Luciano Vietto in a second-half in which Flamengo were down to 10 men after midfielder Gerson conceded the second penalty and was sent off in first-half stoppage time.

"We were ready to play Al Hilal but were not ready for a refereeing that was not up to the standards of the competition," Pereira told a news conference at Tangier on Tuesday.

"There was a very big lack of criteria, it was provocative refereeing and if it weren't for the personality of our players, I'm convinced that we would end the game with more red cards."

Pereira suggested that the referee didn't take a stand to stop Al Hilal players milking the clock and had different criteria for bookings. Flamengo were shown four yellow cards in the first half and three in the second while Al Hilal received only three bookings.

"He was permissive with one stop after the other," Pereira said.

"Al Hilal's only goal attempts in the first-half were the penalties. Therefore, if the match ended 11 against 11, we were the better side.

"We took the actions but were unable to translate it into goals. In the second half, with one less, it wasn't apathy, it's difficult to play down one man."

Al Hilal coach Ramon Diaz disagreed with Pereira and said the penalties were well spotted by the referee.

"Flamengo was surprised by our quality and by how prepared we were, mentally and strategically," Diaz told a news conference.

"Flamengo didn't expect that we would change our scheme from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-1-1, with Luciano Vietto as an attacking midfielder.

"Vietto ghosted behind their holding midfielders who we identified were not good on challenges. And he was brilliant, suffering both penalties and scoring a great goal for us."

Al Hilal, the first Saudi side to reach the Club World Cup final, will face the winners of Real Madrid's semi-final against Al Ahly on Wednesday in Rabat.

Flamengo became only the fourth Brazilian side and sixth South American champions to lose a Club World Cup semi-final.

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Toby Davis and Stephen Coates)

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