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Madrid survive scare to book place in Club World Cup Final

Pin Madrid came from behind to beat a spirited Al Jazira side. AFP
Madrid came from behind to beat a spirited Al Jazira side. AFP

Madrid survive scare to book place in Club World Cup Final

Jack Ottman by Jack Ottman @jackottman - 0 8,558

Al Jazira took a shock first-half lead in the Club World Cup semi-final in Abu Dhabi, but two second-half goals were enough to see a totally dominant Madrid side through to the final.

Romarinho put Al Jazira ahead just before the break, but Real Madrid responded through Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to set up a final against Brazilian side Gremio on Saturday night.

Zinedine Zidane’s side were totally dominant from the first kick of the ball. In the opening minutes, Ali Khaseif pulled off a number of heroic saves to keep his side in the game. First he kept out two headers from Cristiano Ronaldo, one of which was deflected on its way and he reacted quickly to palm it onto the crossbar.

The Al Jazira stopper continued his busy start to the game as he got down to tip Luka Modric’s low drive onto the crossbar, before thwarting Ronaldo yet again from close range.

Unfortunately for the UAE Pro League champions, the keeper went down injured and was receiving treatment and it briefly looked like he would have to be replaced, but he soon recovered and moments later he carried on his heroics by reacting superbly to claw out a header from Karim Benzema.

The Real Madrid attacks did not let up and Khaseif was once again called into action keeping out Modric’s second effort of the game from 20 yards, before catching Raphael Varane’s header from the resulting corner.

On the half hour mark, it looked like the European champions had finally found the breakthrough when Casemiro headed in from Isco’s cross, but the decision went to VAR and it was ruled that Benzema was offside behind the Brazilian midfielder and was interfering with play, so the goal was disallowed.

Los Blancos continued their dominance and amassed a total of 17 shots on goal in the opening 40 minutes before the unthinkable happened and Al Jazira took a shock lead.

A long ball over the top ended with Boussoufa finding Romarinho on the left side of the area, and the Brazilian cut inside past Varane before curling past Keylor Navas, who was yet to make a save, and into the bottom corner to make it 1-0 to Henk ten Cate’s side just before the break.

The surprising events did not stop there, however, and two minutes into the second half it looked as if Al Jazira had doubled their lead. The UAE champions broke from a Madrid corner and somehow had two players clear of the defence inside the opposition half. The ball was eventually played to Boussoufa, who converted from close range and the players celebrated, but the goal was then ruled out for offside and play continued.

Moments after the disallowed goal there was more bad news for Al Jazira as the heroic Ali Khaseif had to come off due to injury, and he was replaced by Al Senaani.

The substitute goalkeeper got off to the worst possible start as Real Madrid had the equaliser within minutes of him coming on, although there was little he could do about it.

Modric played an excellent ball through to Ronaldo inside the area, and the Portuguese star took a touch before firing it past Al Senaani to make to 1-1 and make him the leading goalscorer in Club World Cup history with six goals in the competition.

After the brief scare at the start of the second half, normal service was resumed and Zidane’s side started to dominate once again. Al Senaani took the baton from Ali Khaseif and made two fine saves in quick succession to deny Benzema. The first one was from a drive from outside the area, and the other was a quick reaction save to deny the Frenchman was close range.

Benzema continued to threaten, and after being thwarted twice by the goalkeeper, it was the post that kept him out next, as he sent two efforts from inside the box crashing onto the goalkeeper’s right-hand post in a matter of minutes as Madrid continued to search for the winner.

Eventually, after 81 minutes, Real Madrid finally took the lead through substitute Gareth Bale. The Welshman had only been on the pitch for a few seconds when he stroked the ball home after Lucas Vazquez’s cutback with his first touch of the game.

Al Jazira were unable to respond to the huge blow of going behind for the first time in the game inside the last ten minutes. Bale almost had a second when but his acrobatic volley was too central and Al Senaani managed to keep it out.

Madrid secured the victory to set up a final against Brazilian side Gremio on Saturday night, while Al Jazira will face Pachuca in the third-place play-off.

It was a heroic performance from the UAE side and they pushed Real Madrid all the way in a memorable game for the fans in the Zayed Sports City Stadium.

Zidane’s side were heavy favourites before the start of the competition and that will still be the case as they look to secure their third Club World Cup trophy on Saturday, to put them level with eternal rivals Barcelona, as well as becoming the first team to retain the trophy.

 

Jack Ottman

Jack Ottman

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