Al Jazira nearly pulled off what would have easily been the biggest result in the club’s history as they took a shock 1-0 lead against Real Madrid in the Club World Cup quarter-final, only for the La Liga champions and Champions League winners to kill the fairytale with a late comeback in a 2-1 win.
Cristiano Ronaldo and then Gareth Bale, with his first touch after coming on as a substitute, scored late goals after Madrid were denied throughout the game by some heroic goalkeeping and defending, not to mention the woodwork.
Here we rate the players from both sides.
Khaseif 9 – A combination of the UAE No1, the woodwork and VAR contrived to see miracles performed. Incredible.
M. Al Attas 5 – Was pulled apart at times by Isco, but the youngster will have learned so much from this.
Fayez 7 – The club stalwart pulled off some essential last-ditch tackles and held the five-man defence together.
Juma 6 – Tried to add some physicality at the back. Struggled at times with Karim Benzema, which is hardly a surprise.
Ayed 7 – Not only defended well. His positive use of the ball tried to stem the pressure.
Rashid 7 – Was tested like never before. Caught behind a few times, but stood up well.
Yousif 6 – Had played in the Club World Cup before for Al Wahda. This was a contrasting task and he stood up well.
Khali. Mubarak 6 – The teenager was only here because of a plethora of senior injuries. Did his bit to try and hold back the Madrid tide.
Boussoufa 8 – The Morocco midfielder’s experience was vital. Even tried to get forward.
Romarinho 8 – A place in history was earned by his beautifully taken goal. Such calm and finesse from the 2012 Club World Cup winner with Corinthians. Now, a living Jazira legend.
Mabkhout 7 – Outshone, slightly, by his strike. Yet the UAE’s resident hot shot only just missed out on a memorable goal.
Al Senaani 7 – Was beaten by Ronalo soon after coming on, but still stood up well.
Al Otaibah 6 – Tried to add a physical presence in centre midfield.
Rabea 5 – Looked daunted by the occasion and opponents.
Navas 6 – Was a passenger until he has to pick the ball out of his net.
Hakimi 5 – The goal came from his side and he had little impact going forward. Shame for the Morocco international on Arab soil.
Varane 5 – Allowed Romarinhoo far too much space to find the bottom corner.
Nacho 6 – Was stretched at times on the counter-attack.
Marcelo 7 – A constant threat on the overlap. Took until the second half to make a telling difference.
Modric 7 – Couldn’t believe how Khaseif kept denying him. Always a threat on the edge of the penalty box, with a lovely pass produced for Ronaldo’s leveller.
Casemiro 5 – Robbed of the ball in build-up to Romarinho’s opener.
Kovacic 5 – Had negligible impact on the match. Needs to seize chances like this.
Isco 7 – Madrid’s most-dangerous player, by a distance. Team-mates struggled to finish off his chances.
Benzema 6 – VAR and the woodwork conspired to create another scoreless night for the French forward.
Ronaldo 7 – Huge cheers from the crowd every time he touched the ball. Scored adroitly with his ninth shot.
Vazquez 6 – His energy helped to unsettle Jazira’s defence.
Asensio 6 – Looked to create havoc from centre midfield.
Bale 7 – What a first touch. Belied his injury troubles to produce the match-winning goal.
Gareth Bale came off the bench to book Real Madrid‘s place in the Club World Cup final as the European champions recovered from the shock of going behind to beat Emirati champions Al Jazira 2-1 on Wednesday.
Despite dominating throughout, Madrid trailed at half-time to Romarinho’s opener in a match also marred by use of the video assistant referee (VAR) that ruled out a goal for both sides.
Madrid’s pressure finally paid off 10 minutes into the second half when Cristiano Ronaldo levelled before Bale broke Al Jazira‘s resistence with his first touch eight minutes from time.
Here, we analyse the performances of two pivotal players, Ronaldo and Ali Mabkhout.
In the battle of the talismanic No7s, the UAE international more than held his own.
Al Jazira were always going to be starved of possession with their only avenue a quick ball out from the back on the counter.
Under the circumstances, Mabkhout fared well as the primary outlet, taking the high ball in with neat control to set up dangerous attacks.
He alleviated the heavy pressure on Jazira’s midfield but while the 27-year-old largely used the ball intelligently, he’ll rue not getting on the scoresheet.
Ultimately, Mabkhout is in the side to score goals and when clean through after the break, he opted to square for the marginally-offside Mbark Boussoufa.
One v one, you expect him to apply the finish and it cost Jazira.
Still, it was the only blemish on an otherwise effective display and his impression will no doubt have clubs in Europe taking notice.
Operating in his usual menacing spot on the left of Madrid’s front three, Ronaldo was Real’s main source of attack but in truth Jazira stopper Ali Khaseif turned out to be the source of his frustration.
Indeed, Ronaldo’s movement off the ball is among the very best in the world with his timing making it incredibly difficult for the Jazira back line to mark him.
It meant the apex predator was able to get into dangerous positions time and time again only for Khaseif to produce the performance of his career.
In the opening 10 minutes alone, Ronaldo had four golden opportunities only to be magnificently thwarted by the Emirati stopper.
In truth, had Kaseif not exited the game early after the break through injury, the Portuguese superstar may have never have found the breakthrough.
However, history arrived when he surpassed Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Cesar Delgado to notch his sixth FIFA Club World Cup goal and equalise with a trademark clinical finish.
He switched to the spearhead of Real’s attack when Bale entered the frame and it will be interesting to see how Zidane shapes his forward line with the Welshman returning.
10th min CHANCE: Mabkhout is quick onto a long ball in the right channel, he darts into the penalty area, drops his shoulder past Nacho but instead of shaping up to shoot his misplaced pass to Mbark Boussoufa on the opposite flank allows Madrid to get back into shape to clear.
21st min CHANCE: Al Jazira spring into attack from a Real corner and the blistering counter-attack ends with Mabkhout sliding an effort from just outside the box wide of the left-hand corner.
47th min GOAL DISALLOWED: A Madrid corner is easily dealt with by Al Jazira, allowing them counter-attack quickly. Their opponents have absolutely nobody back to defend, allowing Mabkhout to burst into the box before teeing up Boussoufa for the simplest of tap ins only for VAR to cancel it out.
66th min CHANCE: Slick touch and turn from Mabkhout in centre-midfield and he releases Romarinho who swings a 20-yard strike wide of Navas’ near post.
4th min SHOT: Kovacic tees up Ronaldo with a slick rabona and the Portuguese takes a touch to set himself before lashing a thumping striker just over the bar.
5th min CHANCE: Just a minute later and Ronaldo should have opened the scoring. He bursts through the Al Jazira back line, plays in Isco who then finds Ronaldo with the cross but his header is just parried away by Ali Khaseif at the near post.
7th min CHANCE: Again it’s Ronaldo with a great opportunity as a whipped in cross from the right is lasered into a rising Ronaldo who forces Khaseif into another outstanding stop.
53rd min GOAL: Ronaldo finally finds the finish with his ninth shot. A lovely through-ball from Modric splits the Al Jazira defence in two and perfectly picks out Ronaldo. The Portuguese gets the better of his marker and quickly shoots, and his low effort easily manages to find the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Far from outshone by his opposing No7, the UAE international relieved the suffocating pressure with tight touches under the high ball and an intelligent use of it after that.
Will regret not taking the shot on himself but an admirable performance one of the Arabian Gulf League’s finest forwards.
Took nine shots to eventually get his finish, emblematic of his entire season really, but was predictable a constant threat and took his goal adroitly.
Now the competitions record scorer and there’s every chance he’ll stretch that further in the final.
The game of their lifetimes, or the grandest occasion in the history of UAE football.
Undaunted, they even led for 53 incredible, intoxicating minutes of an engrossing semi-final full of surprises. Brazilian forward Romarinho – a 2012 winner with Corinthians – wrote his name into the annals with an adept finish into the bottom corner just before the break, while a combination of UAE No1 Ali Khaseif’s career-best performance and the momentum-sapping VAR repeatedly denied the visiting European royalty.
Al Jazira’s keeper Ali Khaseif—instant legend. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/luiSgbxFKi— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 13, 2017
Never before has the ‘Pride of Abu Dhabi’ nickname been so apt. It still fit when the second-half onslaught brought the partisan Madrid crowd the – later than expected – goals they desired through Ballon d’Or holder Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale with a telling first touch off the substitute’s bench with 10 minutes left.
FIFA’s Club of the Century, 12-time UEFA Champions League winners and a beloved side mobbed since landing on Sunday in the Emirates. They of Puskas, Di Stefano, a legendary quintet of European Cups, La Quinta del Buitre, Los Galacticos and the incomparable Cristiano Ronaldo.
Losing to opponents who celebrated just their second Arabian Gulf League triumph last May, fuelled by the goals of 2015 Asian Cup top scorer Ali Mabkhout – a name known by few outside the Middle East.
That’s not something which gets written every day, but this was not a usual occurrence – far from it.
It wasn’t too last. But this was about more than simple valour in defeat.
Coach Henk ten Cate joked about needing “three buses” before the match. Yet he did not instruct his charges simply to defend.
Madrid have hit the woodwork four times and had two goals disallowed against Al Jazira. This is far far more exciting than I expected.— Richard Martin (@Rich9908) December 13, 2017
We are talking about a depleted side hardly expected to see off the amateurs of Auckland City in the play-offs, never mind AFC Champions League holders Urawa Red Diamonds as well in the next stage.
This tournament – back in the UAE for the first time since 2009 and 2010, when the host entrants failed to advance beyond the quarter-finals – has developed the habit of throwing incongruous rivals together. Last year, Madrid needed extra-time in the final to see off J1 League holders Kashima Antlers.
A tradition that continued in the guise of AM7 v CR7, the doe-eyed Mohammed Al Attas against the visitors’ fearsome left flank or the redoubtable Khaseif against everything thrown his way as he vied for the man-of-the-match honours within a hectic first 10 minutes of this unlikely clash.
But the only similarity, pre-match, between the competitors appeared to be shared struggles in their domestic title defences.
A hostile crowd of 36,650 was a world away from the pitiful attendances witnessed in many AGL matches. It was certainly more ‘Hala Madrid’ than ‘Yalla Jazira’ in the capital.
Khaseif and the woodwork, somehow, kept out a series of threatening Ronaldo headers and fierce skimmers from Modric.
The Video Assistant Referee also stole in when headers from the unfortunate Karim Benzema and Brazil holding midfielder Casemiro – which deflected off left-back Salem Rashid – were ruled out, belatedly.
Remarkably, a breakthrough finally came at the end no-one expected. Casemiro was lackadaisical in possession, Morocco’s Mbark Boussoufa taking advantage to tee up Romarinho. He stepped inside France’s Raphael Varane and found the corner for a historic sixth goal in 16 games since his summer arrival from Qatar’s El Jaish.
VAR was at it again moments after kick-off in the second half, denying an offside Boussoufa his doubling of the lead as Mabkhout dawdled in letting him slot into an open goal.
1 - Gareth Bale has scored with his first shot and his first touch of the game against Al Jazira. Impact. pic.twitter.com/8LvLjLBVZ9— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 13, 2017
Madrid smelled blood and Ronaldo smashed past replacement goalkeeper Khaled Al Senaani.
Benzema then, twice, came off second best in a duel with the post. Replacement Bale would not be so generous, sidefooting home to deafening cheers.
Brazil’s Gremio now awaits the victors in Saturday’s decider. For Jazira in defeat, they have gained something invaluable – the respect of the world.