Luka Modric’s wonderful goal helped seal Club World Cup history as Real Madrid beat Al Ain 4-1 to become the first team to win the tournament three years in a row.
Santiago Solari’s first silverware since being appointed as Julen Lopetegui’s successor was set up by Modric’s first-half strike as Madrid comfortably triumphed in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, moving past rivals Barcelona with their fourth title in the competition.
The Croatia midfielder, who added the Ballon d’Or crown to his World Cup Golden Ball this month, bent the opener into the bottom-left corner from 25 yards, with Marcos Llorente also drilling home from outside the box before a Sergio Ramos header extended Madrid’s lead.
Al Ain had a goal from Caio Fernandes ruled out for offside when they only trailed by one and Zoran Mamic’s side – who replied through an excellent Tsukasa Shiotani header – can be proud of their efforts on home soil as massive underdogs against the European champions, despite Madrid adding a late fourth through Yahia Nader’s own goal.
— #ClubWC (@FIFAcom) December 22, 2018
Madrid hit the post in the third minute when Llorente got clear in the left channel, his cutback deflected on to the woodwork by fortunate defender Ismail Ahmed.
Al Ain should have taken the lead when Marcelo’s mistake let in Hussein El Shahat but captain Ramos made a miraculous goal-line clearance to deny the winger, then Madrid nudged in front.
Neat build-up play from Karim Benzema set up Modric and the Ballon d’Or winner curled home a beauty from 25 yards, Caio then seeing a rapid reply ruled out for offside.
Benzema missed a brilliant chance to extend Madrid’s lead before goalkeeper Khalid Eisa made outstanding saves to deny both Gareth Bale and Modric before the break.
Madrid effectively clinched the trophy in the 60th minute when a cleared corner fell kindly to Llorente, his thumping half-volley giving Eisa no chance and opening his professional account in some style.
Ramos powered home a Modric corner to make certain of Madrid’s victory, celebrating the goal with unused substitute Isco, although Al Ain scored a deserved consolation through Shiotani with four minutes left.
Madrid had the final say, though, as a cross from substitute Vinicius Jr was turned into his own goal by Nader in the first minute of stoppage time.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) December 22, 2018
What does it mean? Solari up and running
This was not always completely convincing from Madrid, but they did not need to get out of second gear. Solari’s side left too many gaps at the back and more clinical opponents may have punished them, but the coach will be relieved to collect the first trophy of his reign.
Modric the man of the moment
There were few arguments about Modric ending Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s dominance of the Ballon d’Or and he ended 2018 on another high note. His opening goal was superbly struck and the midfielder also forced a scrambling save from Eisa with a stunning volley as well as crossing for Ramos’ goal.
Madrid survive Benzema’s baffling miss
Ronaldo’s sale to Juventus meant Benzema would have to hugely increase his meagre goalscoring returns from last season to address the deficit. But the former France striker has struggled to step up, with an atrocious miss from Lucas Vazquez’s cross particularly worrying. Benzema – who has six league goals this season – did set up Modric’s opener, yet he is ultimately in the Madrid team to score goals, not make them.
Key Opta Facts
– Madrid have won the Club World Cup four times (2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018), surpassing Barcelona (2009, 2011 and 2015) to become the competition’s most successful team.
– Solari is the first Argentinian manager to win the Club World Cup. The previous five Argentinians to manage in a Club World Cup final lost the game, all in charge of teams from South America.
– Madrid captain Ramos is the third player to score in different Club World Cup finals, after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Madrid can enjoy a brief break before returning to LaLiga action at Villarreal on January 3.
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