Real Madrid claim record fourth Fifa Club World Cup with 4-1 victory over Al Ain
Goals from Luka Modric, Marcos Llorente and Sergio Ramos and an own goal from Yahia Nader give Santiago Solari his first trophy as Real manager
Al Ain’s dream run in the Fifa Club World Cup was finally extinguished when the defending champions, led by the recently-crowned world’s best player, brought their class to bear in the final in Abu Dhabi.
Real Madrid retained their title as goals from Luka Modric, Marcos Llorente, and Sergio Ramos, plus an own goal from Yahia Nader, gave the Spanish side a 4-1 win over the Arabian Gulf League’s finest at Zayed Sports City Stadium.
While there was no shock in the result, neither was there any shame in the performance for the valiant runners up, who had infused UAE football with so much joy by even reaching this far.
The choreography of Al Ain supporters pre-kick off suggested as much. The slogan on the huge canvas tifo – so large, in fact, that it was split in two, with one half unfurled on the top tier, the other on the lower – implored the players to “fight to the end”.
There was an additional slogan, too, that said the “dream came true”. Past tense, suggesting reaching the final already represented mission accomplished. Anything else from here was a bonus.
Modric gave the Spanish giants the lead on 14 minutes, when he curled a left-footed shot past Khalid Essa following a neat layoff by Karim Benzema.
His goal extended a quirky sequence into a fourth season: in every Club World Cup since 2015, the Ballon d’Or winner has been on the scoresheet.
It felt possible the floodgates might open at that point, but in truth the UAE side had started the better, and they had chances either side of Modric’s opener.
A minute earlier Hussein El Shahat, who has been central to so much of what has been good about Al Ain at this tournament, went on a mazy dribble down Madrid’s right-flank.
The Egyptian forward beat Ramos and Thibault Courtois, the Madrid goalkeeper, only for his shot to hit the left shin of the recovering Ramos on the goal-line.
Al Ain were undeterred by dropping a goal behind, finding the net themselves straight after, only for Caio to see his goal ruled out for offside.
Gradually, though, Madrid were making their class tell. Essa had to be at his best to stop Gareth Bale twice – first blocking a close range shot, then tipping over a header at a corner.
And Modric’s volley from the ensuing would have found the corner, were Essa not there to block it again, this time, painfully, with his nose.
Just before half-time, Ramos, Madrid’s captain, was shown a yellow card for a senseless foul on Caio. That decision met with the approval of the capacity crowd: Ramos was jeered and whistled since the moment the game kicked off.
The villain of the piece, though, had the last laugh. With the game already as good as won, after Marcos Llorente had doubled the advantage with a sweetly-struck half-volley from a corner, Ramos applied the gloss for his side.
The centre-back soared to powerfully head a right-wing corner past Essa. As he peeled away to celebrate, he angrily cupped his ears toward the crowd.
At least Al Ain were afforded some cheer. With four minutes left, a free-kick from the right by Caio when met by Tsukasa Shiotani, the left-back, who guided it precisely into the top corner of Courtois’ goal.
It counted for little more than consolation. But for all Al Ain have done in putting UAE club football on the map in this tournament, they deserved at least that.
In injury time, though, Madrid pressed ahead further, when Nader bundled into his own net, following a powerful run by substitute Vinicius Jr.
Updated: December 22, 2018 11:03 PM