America claimed fifth place at the Club World Cup with a 2-1 victory over TP Mazembe at Osaka Nagai Stadium on Wednesday.
The CONCACAF champions suffered a dramatic late defeat to Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao in their quarter-final clash, but restored some pride thanks to goals from Dario Benedetto and Martin Zuniga.
Benedetto’s header gave America a deserved lead inside the opening 20 minutes and they doubled their advantage when Zuniga, who came on to replace the injured Argentine, scrambled home nine minutes later.
Rainford Kalaba gave Mazembe a lifeline just before the break, but America always looked in control of a match that was played out at a rather pedestrian pace in front of a sparse crowd.
Sylvain Gbohouo made a good near-post block to deny Michael Arroyo, but he could do nothing to prevent America taking the lead with 19 minutes played as Benedetto met Paul Aguilar’s right-wing cross to head home unmarked.
The goal proved to be Benedetto’s final act as he was taken off on a stretcher just two minutes later, but his replacement took little time to make an impact. A fine team move saw Osvaldo Martinez released to the left of the area and, when Bope Bokadi made a mess of clearing his low cross, Zungia turned the ball home from point-blank range.
Mazemebe finally began to threaten, Patient Mwepu rattling the crossbar with a thunderous 35-yard strike before Moises Munoz tipped over Samatta Mbwana’s free-kick, and they reduced the deficit just before the break as Kalaba fired in a rebound after Samatta shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Oribe Peralta dragged a shot inches past the far post early in the second half as America resumed their control over possession, although Munoz had to be alert to parry Adama Traore’s fierce strike over the crossbar after he cut in from the right.
Mazembe brightened up in the closing stages as they looked for an equaliser, but persistent poor decisions in the attacking third allowed America to see out the final 10 minutes with minimal fuss and claim some measure of consolation from their trip to Japan.