Joy for River Plate fans as Kashima Antlers blanked in Club World Cup third-place play-off
Argentine side bounce back from semi-final defeat to Al Ain to crush Asian club champions 4-0 in Abu Dhabi
River Plate will leave Abu Dhabi having salvaged some pride with victory over Kashima Antlers in the Fifa Club World Cup third-place play-off at Zayed Sports City Stadium on Saturday.
Bruno Zuculini struck in the first half before substitute Gonzalo Martinez scored twice and Santos Borre once in the second half, as the Copa Libertadores winners eased to a 4-0 win against Kashima, the Asian club champions.
Zuculini headed in a corner from Nicolas de la Cruz to break the deadlock. Martinez, unmarked on the far post, doubled the lead from space created by Borre, who moments later stepped forward to score from the penalty spot after he was brought down by Kashima defender Tomoya Inukai. Martinez then doubled his personal goal tally to complete the rout.
For his efforts, Borre received the Player of the Match award - an accolade he called “very valuable” after the forward missed the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final against city rivals Boca Juniors earlier this month.
“This tournament was very important for me because I had some difficult days as I missed the second leg final against Boca Junior at the Real Madrid stadium,” Borre said.
“I lost that opportunity because this game was watched by everyone from around the world. However, to come and play in the Fifa Club World Cup and to win this trophy and the bronze medal means a lot to me.
“The coach [Marcelo Gallardo] was very pleased that I was a part of this tournament, and I’m leaving in a happy way. First, because this win was a collective effort, and for what I did personally.”
The Argentines had suffered a shock 5-4 defeat to Al Ain in the semi-finals on Tuesday - beaten in the penalty shootout after being held 2-2 in extra time.
But River were more composed and certainly more determined on Saturday night as they attempted to give their travelling fans - who made up the bulk of the 13,000 spectators at the stadium - something to cheer about.
Kashima manager Go Oiwa acknowledged River were the better side on the night.
“There were gaps which we allowed our opponents to create,” Oiwa said. “They came in to our area in a very organised way, partly because they were faster and physically stronger.
“We felt they were one notch higher than us. Their speed was one notch higher.”
Kashima goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae limped off the pitch after River forced a corner, leaving his replacement, Hitoshi Sogahata, little time to settle on the set piece. Zuculini rose above the crowd to place the ball in the far corner of the net.
Kwoun got injured when he slammed his right foot against Borre's outstretched boot after charging out from his area to clear a long ball on 11 minutes. He carried on after receiving treatment until River forced the corner.
Oiwa said Kwoun's replacement was "the turning point of the match".
“That’s something that can happen in any match but we allowed them to score, which was far worse,” Oiwa said. “We should have been more careful, and more alert, on that corner kick.
"But we conceded the goal and then gave the momentum to our opponents.”
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Kashima could have equalised just before half time had Koki Anzai’s effort not crashed against the crossbar. River, though, went into the break with the upper-hand, having dominated possession and created more scoring opportunities.
Kashima began the second half showing greater intent, but their attacking forays came in patches as River continued to control the game.
German Lux, the River keeper, made an excellent save to deny Shoma Dai from pulling one back. The Japanese midfielder made a darting run inside the box but his close range effort, after he rounded the last line of defence, was well held by Lux.
Oiwa said the fact his side were able to create scoring opportunities was a positive to take from the game, and that his players were just not lucky enough on the night.
“As I said after the Real Madrid match [in the semi-finals], we still have some shortcomings in our techniques and mentality when we have to play against high level opponents,” Oiwa pointed out.
“We need to sharpen our tactics, be tough and wiser. We were able to come for this competition as the Asian champions, and in order to be in this competition we need to have better and higher mental toughness.
"These are the challenges we have to work on."
Updated: December 22, 2018 09:50 PM