The South American side, who won the Copa Libertadores in July, created their best chance of the first half when Guerrero shot across goal and the ball reached Emerson, whose shot from a narrow angle hit the outside of the post.
Pat NevinFormer Chelsea striker on Match of the Day
"I don't think you can argue with that. It meant more to Corinthians.
"Chelsea were quite disappointing. They did not really go for it but they had their chances. It was no surprise that there was just one goal as it was not a great game. For all three defenders to stay on the line was a mistake.
"If you are Fernando Torres and have waited all game for a chance, you have to score. Frank Lampard was Chelsea's best player."
But, with Corinthians defending high up the pitch, Chelsea began to create more chances.
Luiz, a boyhood Corinthians fan, wasted a free-kick in a good position after Eden Hazard had been fouled by Chicao.
A wonderful piece of creativity from Hazard, who chipped a perfect pass to cut out left-back Fabio Santos, gave Victor Moses a chance but the winger's heavy first touch enabled central defender Paulo Andre to clear.
Frank Lampard, who was making his first Chelsea start since suffering a calf injury in a Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk on 23 October, played another intelligent pass, which Torres controlled on his knee before having his shot saved by Cassio.
The Corinthians goalkeeper then tipped wide a curling effort from Moses and also denied Mata as Chelsea pushed to become only the second English team to win the competition after Manchester United's success in 2008.
But Corinthians went ahead midway through the second half when Paulinho, who has been linked with a move to Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City, collected a pass and ran into the penalty area.
Club World Cup: Past winners
- Corinthians (Brazil)
- Sao Paulo (Brazil)
- Internacional (Brazil)
- AC Milan
- Manchester United
- Inter Milan
The chance appeared to have gone as he lost control but the ball fell to Danilo who cut inside and saw his shot loop up off Cahill before, despite Chelsea having three defenders on the line, Guerrero nodded home from five yards.
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