Real Madrid win 8th Club World Cup; Al-Hilal lose in final

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RABAT, Morocco, Feb 12, (AP): Vinícius Júnior scored twice and assisted Karim Benzema to lead Real Madrid to their record- extending eighth Club World Cup title by beating Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal 5-3. Federico Valverde added two more goals for the European champions in a final that turned into a shootout. Al-Hilal never led but showed it was no fl uke that they upset Brazil’s Flamengo to reach the decider in Morocco’s capital. Vinícius has been the target of racist slurs in the Spanish league and even had his effigy hung from a bridge, but has not let that negatively impact his performances.

The Brazil forward, who scored the only goal when Madrid beat Liverpool in last season’s Champions League final, leads Madrid with 16 across all competitions. Vinícius opened the scoring in the 13th minute and curled home Madrid’s fifth and final goal in the 69th. “Vinícius has been improving since last season just as the team has also grown. We won the Champions League and now the world title, and Vinícius has grown along the way,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. “We are thrilled with what he is doing, above all because he keeps getting better. He is much more decisive now and is making the difference in every match.” Luciano Vietto scored twice and Moussa Marega once for the Asian champions, who fell behind early and never got closer than 2-1 by halftime.

Madrid last won the Club World Cup in 2018. They have succeeded in five different decades. Benzema was a mild surprise in Madrid’s starting lineup a day after Ancelotti said it was touch-and-go if he could play at all. The Ballon d’Or holder missed Madrid’s last two games, including the 4-1 semifinal win against Egyptian club Al Ahly on Wednesday. The France striker cued the opener after exchanges with Valverde and played Vinícius clear to beat goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf. Valverde smashed a poor clearance between the legs of a defender, who defl ected it slightly before it whizzed past Al-Mayouf in the 18th. After struggling in the opening period to even connect three passes, Al-Hilal found its stride after Marega caught Madrid’s backline trying to spring an offside trap in the 26th. The former Porto striker streaked away unbothered, sized up Andriy Lunin and fired past Madrid’s backup goalie, who started for the injured Thibaut Courtois.

The goal settled Al-Hilal and Madrid were stymied until Vinícius made an exquisite pass to serve up a goal by Benzema. Vinícius used the outside edge of his right boot to bend a short cross around a defender and meet Benzema’s darting move. Benzema did the rest by using one touch to blast it in in the 54th. Valverde added his second in the 58th. Vietto scored on either side of Vinícius’ second goal, netting in the 63rd and 79th as Madrid’s defense failed to track the Argentine in the box. A late miss by Marega denied providing Al-Hilal a chance to go for a last-gasp equalizer. “This was the game of their lives, and you could tell it on the field, so we had to take this game seriously,” Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos said after collecting his sixth club world title across Madrid and former club Bayern Munich. Al-Hilal’s squad included members of the Saudi Arabia team that stunned eventual champion Argentina at thes World Cup. Its star player against Madrid, however, was Vietto, a forward who played for several Spanish clubs, including Atletico Madrid, before joining the Saudi league.

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