Neymar scores as Santos beat Kashiwa Reysol

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Neymar showed why he is the most coveted player outside Europe as he lit up the Club World Cup with a sumptuous strike on Wednesday to send Santos on their way to a likely final against Barcelona.

All the talk before the semi-final clash against the host side Kashiwa Reysol had been about the 19-year-old forward, and he did not disappoint, scoring a sensational first goal as the Brazilians ran out 3-1 winners.

He will probably meet Barcelona and Lionel Messi in Sunday’s final, though the European champions first need to dispose of the Qataris Al Sadd in the other semi-final on Thursday. Neymar, the young Brazilian international who has been linked with almost every top club in Europe and compared to the Argentine Messi, was almost on the scoresheet after only five minutes, but his low shot bounced off a post.

On 19 minutes he did score, and it was some strike.

He picked the ball up with his back to goal, dummied inside and from outside the box unleashed an unstoppable left-footed curling shot that nestled in the top corner of the net. Goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno had no chance.

Five minutes later the South American champions went two goals ahead when striker Borges, who has been in prolific form in the past year, got away from his marker and crashed the ball into the other corner of Sugeno’s goal.

Japanese champions Kashiwa, who have their very own talented Brazilians in coach Nelsinho and J-League player of the year Leandro Domingues, were stunned.

But to their credit they belatedly found some rhythm at the Toyota Stadium and they had the better of the rest of the first-half, without really creating a clear chance on goal for their yellow-shirted fans in the crowd of 29,173.

Santos might have taken a 3-0 lead minutes after the re-start, but Sugeno saved with his legs from Danilo.

On 54 minutes Kashiwa hit back, as Jorge Wagner, the other Brazilian in the Japanese side’s ranks, lofted over a corner for defender Hiroki Sakai – who has been linked with a move to Santos – to climb highest and nod in.

But Kashiwa’s hopes of a comeback lasted all of nine minutes, as Danilo curled a direct free-kick round the wall, the ball dropping in the corner of Sugeno’s net, leaving him stranded.

Yet still the Japanese league champions would not lie down. Masakatsu Sawa hit a post, while Santos sub Ibson rattled Kashiwa’s bar.

Earlier in the day, the Mexicans Monterrey sealed fifth place after seeing off the African champions Esperance of Tunisia 3-2.

The CONCACAF winners fell behind in an open and entertaining fixture in the Japanese city of Toyota, but struck back with three goals in a nine-minute spell.

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