Chelsea's attempt to become club world champions ended in tears of regret and angry accusations of play-acting, with Gary Cahill incensed at the reaction of Corinthians' Emerson after tangling with the forward in the last minute. The England defender was dismissed as the Brazilian club prevailed courtesy of Paolo Guerrero's second-half winner.
The defeat ensured Chelsea passed up a potential third trophy this term, albeit only after the Community Shield and European Super Cup, to accompany their failure to emerge from their Champions League group. Rafael Benítez must now raise weary and crestfallen players, many of whom slumped to the turf at the final whistle as the Brazilians celebrated, ahead of Wednesday's Capital One Cup quarter-final at Leeds, with preparation time limited and fears abounding over jet lag from Monday's 13-hour flight home.
Cahill will be suspended for that game at Elland Road, with Fifa to determine this week whether the ban should be extended to include Sunday's match against Aston Villa. "It was a bad reaction from me: I tackled him, we tangled up, he lashed out with his arm and hit me in the face," said the centre-half.
"I thought that was out of order but I reacted in a bad way. I am angry about it. I'm disappointed in myself for my reaction but also because it's OK for someone to lash out at you but you do something back and it's deemed a red card.
"It probably is a red card but the reaction of the guy is totally out of order for what I did. If you see the impact it wouldn't have been enough to knock over my one-year-old daughter. I'm still angry. There are two different stories. Someone's smashed me in the face but I didn't roll around on the floor for five minutes holding my head. I got up, reacted and tapped him in the shin. He felt the need to go down, roll around on the floor about five times holding his face. I suppose that's the story of the game really."
Chelsea, the first Champions League winners to fail to claim this trophy since 2006, had created the better chances in Yokohama only to be denied by a trio of fine saves from Corinthians' Cássio. The best fell to Fernando Torres in stoppage time, only for the goalkeeper to smother his attempt from close range. The striker subsequently saw a header ruled out for offside, with his interim first-team manager admitting that such profligacy in a major final against impressive opponents was always likely to prove costly.
"I agree you have to take these chances in a final because it's not easy to create too many," said Benítez. "But, again, you try to find the positives in the situation. He was there. He had the chances. He scored the goal that was disallowed."
The defeat had a profound effect on Chelsea's own Brazilians, Ramires and David Luiz, who both ended the contest in tears and having to be consoled by team-mates. "I didn't see him crying, but I cried," said David Luiz, who was born in São Paulo state and is a childhood Corinthians fan. "I congratulate them but I cannot be happy. I wanted to win so much. I'd dreamed one day of playing in the Club World Cup final; I play for a big club, I try for that. I play for a big club and big clubs win big games and big titles, so now I have a heavy heart. But life continues. I have a great job and I have to say thank you for that every day. You can cry for one night. Tomorrow is another day."
The Brazilian centre-half will most likely have to partner Branislav Ivanovic at Elland Road in the prolonged absence of John Terry, who is not yet deemed fit enough to return after a knee ligament injury. Many of the players who featured in Japan will be required for that fixture scheduled just two days after their return. Their number could include Lucas Piazón, an unused substitute here, whose frustration at losing to his compatriots prompted a post-match criticism of the team's performance.
"We didn't have the desire to be champions," the 18-year-old, who did not feature in either game in Japan, said in the Brazilian media. "I think only David Luiz and Ramires, the Brazilians, showed willpower. That's why they're sad. The team went out on to the pitch with no desire. It's unacceptable. I noticed David was sad. He was one of the few players that showed something in the game."
Piazón later tried to qualify his words via Twitter. "All I said was that Corinthians had more courage to play the final than us, that they wanted more this title and that they played with more passion than us," he wrote. "I would never say something about my team mates. I'm just 18 and with them I learn a lot of good things. And I also said that this title is so important for the South American clubs and that was a dream for me. That's why i was so sad."
Frank Lampard, who made his first start since 23 October here and could also face Leeds, said: "We're disappointed. It was always going to be a tough game and they're a very physical team as well as one with ability. We didn't score from our chances and gave them a goal and, once you give Brazilian teams a goal, they're very adept at sitting back and counterattacking.
"We didn't play at our best but they set themselves up well to try and stop you playing great stuff. This was certainly a meaningful competition. It's been meaningful from the minute we got here, and as a club we wanted to win it. There were a few echoes of [the Champions League final in] Munich out there but, sadly, it didn't end the same."
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