Real Madrid booked their place in the FIFA Club World Cup final by beating Mexico’s Club America 2-0 in Japan on Thursday.
The European champions, who will now face Kashima Antlers in Sunday’s Yokohama final, controlled the semi as expected, but had to wait until the third minute of stoppage time to make certain of their victory.
Real’s first goal also came in stoppage time, albeit in the first half when Karim Benzema found the top corner following an excellent pass by Toni Kroos.
— 07 Janvier ? (@NegroInCompris_) December 15, 2016
That goal was nothing short of what Real – who had been dominant – deserved.
Despite bossing the game, Real were more cautious than usual, perhaps due to the fact that injuries to Sergio Ramos and Pepe had left their defensive line looking more vulnerable than usual.
Raphael Varane and Nacho both looked solid at centre-half in the absence of Real’s main defensive men.
Although they did not tear their opponents limb from limb, Real did create more than their fair share of chances and should have scored more.
The Spanish giants posted 16 shots – five on target – and also had a goal disallowed due to Benzema being flagged offside.
At the other end, Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas had a pretty quiet game, but did make two tidy saves.
With America pushing hard for a late leveller, Cristiano Ronaldo – recently named by the tournament organisers as the best player on the planet – gave the fans what they wanted to see with virtually the last kick of the game.
Ronaldo’s effort was somewhat overshadowed, however, as fans were dazzled – and a little baffled – by the video on-trial replay system, which ruled out his late goal, then gave it again.
Ronaldo scores, ref takes it off him for offside, then re-awards goal as replay eventually confirms it: “The television doesn’t work huh?” pic.twitter.com/iANmNJlwNs
— Brenton Speed (@BrentonSpeed) December 15, 2016
Going into the final, Real are huge favourites to beat Kashima in 90 minutes, but there will still be plenty of betting offers available on the game, which will start at 10.30am UK time.
Real Madrid player ratings
Navas 7, Carvajal 6, Varane 7, Nacho 7, Marcelo 6, Casemiro 5, Modric 6, Kroos 7, Ronaldo 8, Benzema 7, Vasquez 5.
Man of the Match
Cristiano Ronaldo was not at his clinical best today, nor were Real, but CR7 was still very involved and on another day could easily have walked away with hat-trick of goals and assists.