Head coach Santiago Solari hailed Real Madrid’s ceaseless desire to “never get tired of winning” after they beat hosts Al Ain 4-1 to complete a historic run of three-successive Champions League and Club World Cup-doubles.
Saturday night’s red-hot favourites, unsurprisingly, dominated from the off at Zayed Sports City as the 2018 edition came to an end. Superb goals from Luka Modric, man-of-the-match Marcos Llorente and skipper Sergio Ramos put them 3-0 up by 78 minutes, prior to Tsukasa Shiotani’s headed consolation and substitute Yahia Nader’s injury-time own goal.
“The team is used to repeat success,” said Solari, who won the Intercontinental Cup with Los Blancos as a winger in 2002 and has now overseen a record fourth CWC triumph. “The more you win, you realise is the most difficult thing to win.
“I enjoy to see how much they [the players] enjoy it. The value they give to it and seriousness we put into the tournament.
“This is because we played in the semi-final without conceding anything. Today, we gave a great match. Football can always give surprises. We didn’t mark properly at the start, but then improved.
“This team has already won a lot. But they never get tired of winning.”
The occasion was a special one for 23-year-old centre midfielder Llorente. His delightful half volley on the hour mark rocketed into the bottom corner, breaking the Castilla product’s first-team goal drought at the 33rd time of asking.
“When you accomplish things like that, you have to be very happy,” said Llorente, who represents the third generation of Madrid footballers drawn from his family.
“It is not every day you win a final. And to score a goal for the team is the top thing, for me.”
“We are very happy about this. We always want to get all the titles, we push for them.
“We also wanted to get this record of winning it so many times. It is a good prize for the team to end the year in a positive way and get ready to work for the next year.”
In the opposite corner, pride was the overriding emotion.
The Boss were expected to make the semi-finals, at best. Instead, they deservedly edged Copa Libertadores titans River Plate on penalties to become the UAE’s first finalists.
Prior to this, they’d roared back from 3-0 down to win another shootout against New Zealand amateurs Team Wellington and battered CAF Champions League giants Esperance de Tunis 3-0.
Coach Zoran Mamic praised the attitude of his Arabian Gulf League-holders.
He said: “First of all, congratulations to Madrid, they deserved to win this trophy. They presented good football, with lots of quality.
“I think at the end, we played a good tournament. It was very hard for us, a fourth game in roughly 10 days.
“We didn’t have enough power to make life difficult for Real. We had some good situations in the first half, with El Shahat.
“But we didn’t use them. At this level, if you want to make life difficult, you have to use your chances.
“We have to learn from this tournament, how to play with the big guys. On the other side, we have to be proud of what we achieved.
“No one thought we’d be in the final. We have to be proud, be happy and enjoy it.
“There is a new challenge in a few days. We have to come back to reality and concentrate on the local football.”
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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.
Modric was at the centre of all of Madrid’s good play.
Here’s our analysis of his performance.
Modric has never been a shoot-on-sight kind of midfielder but he does have the technique to test keepers from range and exhibited that against Al Ain. He latched on to Karim Benzema’s lay-off well before opening up on his weaker left side and stroking the ball past Khalid Essa from the edge of the box.
He then struck a well-hit volley from the edge of the box from Toni Kroos’ corner. The Croat did well to control his effort and keep it on target, forcing Essa into a save. He doesn’t shoot often but when he does it’s usually special.
Kroos and Marcos Llorente were both tidy with their passing and recycled possession well but it was Modric who actually set attacks in motion with his forward passes. His link-up play with the front three was exceptional and he provided the assist from a corner for Ramos’ goal.
It’s hypercritical, but perhaps Modric didn’t have to be as advanced as he was on a few occasions. At times, he was the furthest man forward, playing on the shoulder of the last defender almost with no intention of running in behind. That said, he had plenty of cover to work with.
14th minute: GOAL – Benzema plays in Modric who opens up the angle and curls in with his left foot from the edge of the box.
40th minute: SHOT – Kroos pings his corner to the edge of the area where Modric meets it with a volley that is saved by Essa.
59th minute: KEY PASS – Modric and Benzema combine inside the box with a quick one-two. The Frenchman’s shot is saved.
78th minute: ASSIST – Modric’s outswinging corner is directed towards Ramos and the captain heads home to make it 3-0.
Modric has come under plenty of scrutiny after winning the 2018 Ballon d’Or with critics suggesting that he maybe wasn’t the most deserving of it following a poor start to the season. However, performances like this one only strengthens his defence.
He bossed the midfield, was the chief creative force, provided an assist and scored a sensational goal. There’s not much more you can ask of the 33-year-old. He’s starting to look more like his old self under Santiago Solari.
Fine goals from midfielders Luka Modric and Marcos Llorente helped earn a fourth Club World Cup trophy in five editions for Real Madrid as they ended hosts Al Ain’s historic march to the final with a 4-1 win.
At an expectant Zayed Sports City, Modric curled in a beautiful opener 14 minutes shortly after Hussein El Shahat’s effort was cleared off the line by Sergio Ramos.
Llorente’s half volley on the hour mark – his first for Madrid – and Ramos’ header then killed the game. A memorable headed consolation from Tsukasa Shiotani followed, prior to substitute Yahia Nader’s clumsy injury-time own goal.
REAL MADRID (4-3-3)
Thibaut Courtois – 6: As expected, didn’t have a great deal to do. Bailed out by backtracking skipper Ramos for Al Ain’s best chance.
Dani Carvajal – 6: Experienced an intriguing battle with Boss danger man Caio. Got usual amount of overlaps in, but this left space for the Brazilian to exploit.
Raphael Varane – 7: Stuck out a giant leg to push El Shahat, critically, wide in the first half. Then used ball well to get Madrid going.
Sergio Ramos – 8: Expert at playing the villain. Booed for last season’s clash with Mohamed Salah, cleared off the line and headed in the third.
Marcelo – 6: Sloppy header gifted El Shahat a shot at glory. Was otherwise as you’d expect – a bustling attacking presence down the left.
Luka Modric – 8: It was fitting that 2018’s greatest player struck a stunning opener in the Club World Cup-decider. A class apart.
Marcos Llorente – 7: Did not waste chance to start in successive games. Was utilised as a box-to-box option. Pure technique for second.
Toni Kroos – 7: Usual exhibition of midfield excellence. Rarely wasted the ball and read play to help cut out Al Ain counter-attacks at source.
Lucas Vazquez – 5: A quiet night for the Spain winger. Ex-Japan defender Shiotani provided a blockade he could not break through.
Karim Benzema – 7: Quiet excellence from the former France striker. Set-up play was outstanding, the delicate chested flick for Modric’s goal providing a highlight.
Gareth Bale – 6: There was no repeat of his hat-trick heroics from the semi-final. Almost struck via a header. Good battle with Ahmed.
Dani Ceballos – 6: Kept things ticking over for dominant Madrid.
Casemiro – N/A: More minutes under the belt for returning Brazil defensive midfielder.
Vinicius Junior – N/A: Dancing feet and speed forced own goal by Nader.