Cristiano Ronaldo scored the 500th goal of his club career as Real Madrid beat Club America in the Club World Cup semi-final on Thursday.
The Portugal star drilled home in second-half injury time after missing a hatful of earlier chances to cap a 2-0 victory for the European champions in Yokohama and book a showdown against Kashima Antlers on Sunday.
Karim Benzema put Madrid ahead seconds before half-time with a fine finish but it was not until added time at the end of the match that Ronaldo at last found the net, although there was initial confusion over whether the video referee had decided that the goal should be disallowed for offside.
Madrid were largely comfortable against the winners of the CONCACAF Champions League but they missed a number of opportunities to make the scoreline more emphatic.
Ronaldo had hit the post and missed an open goal either side of the strike from Benzema that made him the first Madrid player to score in two different Club World Cup tournaments.
America battled well but failed to create any meaningful chances of their own against a Madrid defence shorn of captain Sergio Ramos, who was rested with a minor injury worry.
The victory extended Zinedine Zidane’s side’s unbeaten run to 36 games and sets up a final against the champions of Asia.
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Ronaldo and Silvio Romero both shot wide in an end-to-end opening 15 minutes, before Alex Ibarra brought a routine save from Keylor Navas with the first effort on target.
Ronaldo had hit the post from an offside position early on and he was thwarted by the woodwork again when he headed Lucas Vazquez’s cross off the turf and against the upright with 26 minutes played.
A fierce strike from the Portugal captain from 20 yards then forced a good save from Munoz before Benzema was flagged offside when he steered the rebound into the bottom corner.
Madrid had looked a little frustrated in their attacking efforts but, with seconds of the first half remaining, they took the lead. Toni Kroos threaded a perfect pass into Benzema’s path in the area, and the striker bent the ball with the outside of his right foot over Munoz and into the top corner.
The goal seemed to sap some of the spirit from America in a tepid start to the second half and only a timely block from Paolo Goltz stopped a rasping Ronaldo shot from finding the bottom corner.
Ronaldo’s frustrations were building and an extraordinary miss in the 66th minute rather summed up his fortunes in front of goal, as he headed the ball down and way off target with the open goal gaping after being picked out by Lucas.
Munoz made a good save from a low shot from the excellent Modric but, despite their missed chances, Madrid rarely looked in trouble as they maintained their hopes of a second global title in three seasons.
And with only seconds to spare, Ronaldo raced onto James Rodriguez’s pass before drilling low past Munoz and into the bottom corner from a tight angle, with the goal eventually awarded after the video official confirmed that there was no offside infringement.
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