Goals from Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo saw Real Madrid advance to the final of the Club World Cup with a hard-fought win against Club America.
The French striker produced a lovely outside-of-the-boot finish from Toni Kroos’ delightful through ball in added on time at the end of the first period to give Zinedine Zidane’s side the lead before Ronaldo added gloss to the scoreline in extra-time, after video technology confirmed the goal as onside.
Raphael Varane and Nacho started as the centre half pairing in the absence of Sergio Ramos and Pepe with Casemiro anchoring the midfield and the attack spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzema.
Despite being clear underdogs for the clash, Club America started the game on the front foot with a smothering press in action from the off.
Lucas Vazquez came within inches of opening the scoring spectacularly in the eight minute – the Mexicans failing to clear a Kroos corner properly with the winger attempting a volley from outside the box, but it flew narrowly wide of goal.
Four minutes later and Oribe Peralta had a golden opportunity for Ricardo La Volpe’s side – unmarked inside the box, he could only direct a rushed effort over the bar.
Vazquez – Madrid’s most dangerous player throughout the game – fed Ronaldo through on goal, but the Portuguese star’s shot rattled off the post before realizing the linesman had correctly raised his flag for offside.
The two combined midway through the half again, Vazquez this time crossing and the Ballon d’Or meeting it with a firm header that rattled the crossbar.
Club America’s offside trap once again paid off in the 32nd minute as Benzema had the ball in the net following Ronaldo’s blocked free-kick but once again La Liga’s leaders were denied by the assistant referee’s flag.
Madrid were nearly caught out ten minutes before the break – William da Silva used his pace to escape several challenges with his shot from distance having to be smartly tipped away for a corner by Keylor Navas.
Both sides failed to create any more clear opening until the stroke of half-time; Kroos telepathically finding Benzema with a threaded through ball, with the 28-year-old producing a cool finish.
25-year-old Vazquez was again Madrid’s liveliest player in the second period with every attack from the European champions instigated by the former Espanyol loanee.
Ronaldo came close to netting his first ever goal in the tournament on the hour mark – Vazquez jinking into the area before cutting back for the Portuguese star, who’s powerful effort was blocked by goalkeeper Muñoz.
Five minutes later and Ronaldo really should have put the game behind Club America; Vazquez again caused havoc down the right and his cross was left by Benzema for the former Manchester United man, but he somehow miscued his effort from point-blank range.
Despite continued pressure and the Mexican side failing to string together any meaningful attack in the second period, and Madrid extended their lead deep into added time as Ronaldo finally got on the score sheet to wrap up the win and set up a final against Japanese side Kashima Antlers.
Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos (James ’71), Modric; Lucas Vazquez, Ronaldo, Benzema (Morata ’80)
Club America: Muñoz; Alvarado (Guerrero ’54), Valdez, Goltz, Aguilar; Zamudio, Da Silva, Sambueza; Ibarra (Quintero ’62), Romero (Arroyo ’70), Peralta
Referee: Enrique Caceres