Ronaldo strikes late as Real Madrid reach Club World Cup final
Superstar adds to Benzema’s earlier goal as Spanish giants beat Mexico’s Club America 2-0 to set up showdown with Japan’s Kashima Antlers
Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo were on target as Real Madrid eased past Mexico’s Club America 2-0 on Thursday to reach the Club World Cup final in Japan.
The Spanish giants will face shock finalists and local favourites Kashima Antlers in Yokohama on Sunday as they look to capture their second world title in three years.
“Our sole aim was to reach the final – so it’s job done,” Real coach Zinedine Zidane said after watching his side extend their club record unbeaten run to 36 matches in all competitions.
“We didn’t have a great rhythm in the first half but in the second half we created a lot of chances and Cristiano finally scored so I’m very satisfied,” added the Frenchman.
“It was a long flight to Japan, but for Real Madrid the Club World Cup is an important tournament and we are here to lift the trophy.”
Zidane’s countryman Benzema said: “It was a hard game against a tough team. The conditions were difficult too with the long journey we’ve had but we played well and won the game – now for the final.”
With Ronaldo firing blanks until scoring with virtually the last kick of the game, Benzema struck in first-half stoppage time, finishing clinically with the outside of his right boot after a deft pass from Toni Kroos.
Ronaldo, who scooped his fourth Ballon d’Or earlier this week, had already squandered a gilt-edged opportunity by heading against the post.
The Portuguese superstar also saw two stinging efforts blocked by goalkeeper Moises Munoz but his persistence paid off when he swept home from a tight angle deep into injury time.
Confusion followed, however, when it appeared that Paraguayan referee Enrique Caceres would review the decision to allow Ronaldo’s goal using the video technology being trialled by Fifa in Japan.
Ronaldo’s face turned to thunder as the Mexicans protested he had been offside – until the match official finally indicated that the goal stood.
“It’s a new invention but to be honest I don’t like it,” said man of the match Luka Modric when asked about video replays.
“It causes confusion. I hope they don’t continue with this system because for me it is not football.”
Club America coach Ricardo La Volpe, meanwhile, insisted his side had been unfortunate to lose.
“I think the luck was against us this evening,” insisted the firebrand Argentine.
“It was a very tight game which we dominated for periods. But perhaps we weren’t aggressive enough and we couldn’t find the final ball.”