A valiant Al Ain side were eventually overpowered by the might of Real Madrid in the Club World Cup final.
Goals from Luka Modric, Marcos Llorente and Sergio Ramos plus a Yahia Nader own goal saw the Champions League holders cruise to a 4-1 win at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi with Tsukasa Shiotani pulling a goal back for the UAE champions.
Here are our Madrid talking points.
Madrid were always expected to be the dominant force in this encounter but given their goal drought under Julen Lopetegui earlier in the season which lasted over eight hours of football, their play in the final third would still have been a source of encouragement for Santiago Solari.
Integral to their chance creation was the duo of Benzema and Modric. Both players patrolled the width of the pitch and were always involved in the final third, combining well to break the deadlock when the Ballon d’Or winner curled a sublime effort past Khalid Essa.
Modric reciprocated by creating a glorious opportunity for the Frenchman in the second half but the striker’s shot after the pair exchanged a one-two inside the area was saved by Essa.
Benzema’s finishing was suspect throughout the match but there’s no doubting his influence in Madrid’s play with the fluid interplay of wingers Lucas Vazquez and Gareth Bale also compounding Al Ain’s problems.
LLORENTE MAKING HIS MARC
Casemiro has been one of the first names on Madrid’s team sheet in recent years, anchoring their midfield expertly. However, in his absence this term Llorente has impressed in the position.
Even though the Brazilian return as a substitute in the semi-final against Kashima Antlers, the Spanish midfielder retained his starting berth on Saturday – but for how long?
Llorente might’ve felt it necessary to leave a mark on the final and certainly did so, scoring his first ever goal for Los Blancos. It wasn’t your run-of-the-mill goal, either. The ball fell perfectly for the midfielder outside the area after Kroos’ corner was cleared and he met it with a right-footed attempted which screamed textbook technique.
Despite Madrid’s control over the game, they only had a slender one-goal advantage to show for their efforts before Llorente’s 62nd minute strike.
It was the perfect way to cap another fine display at the heart of Madrid’s midfield where his work rate and reading of the game afforded the likes of Modric the security to push forward. He deservedly picked up the man of the match award.
They were always favourites and played like it. Despite dominating proceedings and creating chances, it took some time before they were able to pull away from Al Ain and post an insurmountable lead. Crucially though, they never tried to force the issue.
There was nothing desperate about their play. It was always composed and measured. Eventually, the goals came. Credit to them for respecting their opponents and keeping their foot on the gas as well.
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