Real Madrid eased to a third straight Club World Cup title as Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos scored in a 4-1 final victory over home team Al Ain in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
The European champions have struggled at times this season but had little trouble in brushing aside Al Ain, whose surprise run to the final included a comeback from 3-0 down against Team Wellington and a shock last-four win over River Plate.
The Spanish giants have now won a record four Club World Cup titles, pulling one clear of arch-rivals Barcelona, who were in La Liga action on Saturday.
“These players deserve it. They’re here after working very hard and winning many trophies,” said Real coach Santiago Solari.
“Today they added a finishing touch with the third consecutive Club World Cup, which I think is a great feat for the club, of course for Real Madrid and this group of players in particular.”
Solari, who has had to deal with rumours surrounding his future after former Los Blancos coach Jose Mourinho’s sacking by Manchester United earlier this week, named a strong side including Modric, Toni Kroos and Gareth Bale.
Ballon d’Or winner Modric gave Real a 14th-minute lead, and Marcos Llorente’s fantastic volley wrapped up the win on the hour mark before Sergio Ramos’ late third and Tsukasa Shiotani’s consolation.
Yahia Nader put through his own net in injury time as Real comfortably claimed their 11th win in 13 games and a first trophy since Solari took over from the sacked Julen Lopetegui in October.
“This is what we expected from ourselves, what we have been working on every week,” said Llorente after scoring his first goal for the club. “It’s my first for the senior team, and what could be better than in this final.”
– Al Ain start brightly –
Al Ain started brightly and came close to taking a shock lead when Sweden international striker Marcus Berg could only prod the ball into the gloves of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
But Real did not wait long to make Berg pay, as Karim Benzema teed up Modric, who took a touch before curling a fine left-footed strike into the bottom corner.
Benzema went close with a blocked effort, before also firing over the bar.
A second goal always looked likely to arrive sooner rather than later, with Modric denied by an excellent save from Al Ain ‘keeper Khalid Eisa.
But the Emiratis hung on and could have levelled when Rayan Yaslam Mohamad Al Jaberi could only slice a shot out of play for a throw-in.
Real doubled their lead, though, as 23-year-old midfielder Llorente met a looping clearance to drill home a wonderful volley from just outside the area.
The game was all over as a contest in the 79th minute when Ramos climbed above the Al Ain defence to power a trademark header into the net from Modric’s corner.
Japanese midfielder Shiotani glanced in a Caio free-kick to grab Al Ain an 86th-minute consolation, but Nader deflected Junior Vinicius’ effort past Eisa in the first minute of added time.
© Agence France-Presse (Additional Edits By Oisin McQueirns)