Wednesday , October 18 2017

Ronaldo, Real lift Club World Cup – Los Blancos survive scare to beat Antlers; Atletico take emotional 3rd place in Japan

Real Madrid players celebrate on the podium after defeating Kashima Antlers in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup soccer tournament in Yokohama, near Tokyo on Dec 18. (AP)

YOKOHAMA, Japan, Dec 18, (AFP): Cristiano Ronaldo smashed a hat-trick as Real Madrid survived a colossal scare to beat Japan’s Kashima Antlers 4-2 and lift the Club World Cup on Sunday. A Gaku Shibasaki double briefly threatened one of football’s greatest shocks after Karim Benzema had given Real an early lead in Yokohama.

But Ronaldo equalised from the penalty spot before pouncing twice in extra time to give the Spanish giants their second world title in three years and fifth in total.

“Bloody hell, what a game!” said a breathless Ronaldo. “We had to suffer, but that’s what finals are all about.

“People always expect more of Cristiano,” he added, speaking of himself in the third person.

“It has been an unforgettable year – winning the Champions League, the Super Cup and the Euros with Portugal.

“And to score three more goals and to have such a perfect end to this dream year, it’s incredible.”

The victory extended Real’s club record unbeaten run to 37 matches in all competitions, while French coach Zinedine Zidane surpassed Fabio Capello’s record for their best start to a season.

But the European champions, yet to be defeated in 26 games this campaign, were forced to dig deep by an Antlers side who finished a distant third over the J-League season, before winning the championship final.

Benzema’s toe-poked opener was cancelled out on the stroke of halftime by Shibasaki, who took advantage of some calamitous defending from Raphael Varane to lash in a sharp volley.

The Japan midfielder then sparked wild celebrations among a crowd of 68,000 seven minutes after the break when he smashed home a left-foot shot from long distance.

Meanwhile, Atletico Nacional beat Mexico’s Club America 4-3 on penalties to finish third at the FIFA Club World Cup on Sunday after an emotional three weeks for the Colombian side.

Miguel Borja swept home the decisive spot kick to seal victory for the reigning Libertadores Cup holders after they had squandered a two-goal lead over the 90 minutes in Yokohama.

Atletico, who failed to reach the final in Japan following their incidental part in the air tragedy that decimated Brazilian rivals Chapecoense last month, looked as if they would run away with the third-place clash after an explosive start.

Embarrassed by a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Japan’s Kashima Antlers in midweek, Atletico went ahead after just six minutes through a Miguel Samudio own goal.

Alejandro Guerra slammed in a second, but Michael Arroyo pulled one back with a ferocious volley seven minutes before the break. Substitute Oribe Peralta lashed home the equaliser from the penalty spot to make it 2-2.

Atletico, who made headlines when Chapecoense’s squad were all but wiped out by a plane crash while en route to play them in the Copa Sudamericana final, were cheered by a huge contingent of fans, many waving Chape flags in tribute to the fallen side.

“We felt the tragedy very acutely and discussed it with the players many times,” Atletico coach Reinaldo Rueda told reporters.

“They are professional footballers but still terrible things like this can happen. We can understand the pain the families and loved ones of Chapecoense must be suffering and it was on our mind while we played here in Japan.”

 

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