Real Madrid 5-3 Al Hilal: Vinicius double sets up Club World Cup glory
Vinicius Junior scored twice as Real Madrid won the Club World Cup for a fifth time by beating Al Hilal 5-3 in Saturday’s chaotic final.
The Brazilian winger, who has faced appalling racist abuse in Spain this season, let his football do the talking in Rabat as Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid lifted the trophy.
Federico Valverde also hit a double and there was a welcome goal for Karim Benzema on his return from a minor injury, with Madrid never seriously troubled by the champions of Saudi Arabia.
Al Hilal beat Flamengo in the semi-finals, but taking down the UEFA Champions League holders was a step too far, although they rattled Madrid at times.
Vinicius put Madrid ahead in the 13th minute when Benzema played him through to the left of goal. The Brazilian’s right-footed strike was not the most convincing of finishes but sneaked through the defences of goalkeeper Abdullah Al Muaiouf.
Argentinian Luciano Vietto almost levelled barely a minute later when his low strike from 20 yards went inches wide of the left post. Yet Madrid moved 2-0 up in the 18th minute after a soft goal for Al Hilal to concede.
Luka Modric’s whipped cross from the right was too hot for Al Muaiouf, with the ball bouncing out to Valverde whose 15-yard skidding volley went through defender Ali Al Bulayhi and the goalkeeper. Al Muaiouf did better moments later when repelling a strike by Benzema.
Any thought Los Blancos might be on easy street evaporated when Moussa Marega dashed through to fire past Andriy Lunin in the 26th minute, with Benzema missing a good chance late in the half to restore the two-goal cushion.
Benzema made no such mistake in the 54th minute, meeting a cross from Vinicius on the left with a powerful close-range finish. The ball from Vinicius, struck with the outside of his right boot, was read perfectly by Benzema whose sharp movement left three markers standing.
Dani Carvajal and Valverde combined expertly down the Madrid right in the 58th minute, working a path into the Al Hilal penalty area, with Valverde clipping in his second goal of the game.
Five minutes later, Antonio Rudiger was caught asleep on the job as Vietto sprinted behind him before chipping past Lunin to cut Madrid’s lead to 4-2, but Vinicius soon restored the three-goal cushion with a sweeping finish into the right corner.
Vietto scored again in the 79th minute, but Madrid avoided any more costly defensive wobbles to get their hands on the trophy.
What does it mean? Madrid get what they came for
Head coach Ancelotti said this was an important game for Madrid, because he felt picking up silverware could motivate them for the run-in in LaLiga and the rest of their Champions League campaign. Whether this does the trick remains to be seen.
There were enjoyable moments from the team that dominated last season in Spain and Europe, with some lovely goals, but the defending from Madrid was haphazard, and that’s being kind.
Marega missed a golden chance to make it 5-4 with 10 minutes remaining, and Ancelotti will know Madrid have to sharpen up at that end of the field if they are to achieve their priority goals for the season.
Vinicius turns on the style
Having a hard time of things in Spain, Vinicius showed why Madrid will go the extra mile to protect him. His two goals made him the first Brazilian to hit a double in a Club World Cup final, and the assist for Benzema was arguably his finest moment of the match, a delicious delivery that made the skipper’s job an easy one.
He had a team-high four shots, three of which hit the target, and although he lost possession 18 times, it is often a high-risk game that Vinicius plays, and there were many more pluses than minuses for him at the Stade Prince Moulay Abdallah.
Lunin left to fend for himself
With Thibaut Courtois missing due to a leg muscle injury, there was a rare chance in a big final for Ukrainian goalkeeper Lunin. He conceded three times and did not make a save from a shot, though, so despite finishing with a medal he has certainly given better performances with the gloves in the past.
However, he was left criminally exposed at time by Madrid’s shabby defending, and Liverpool, despite their own problems, will have enjoyed seeing such frailty at the back ahead of the upcoming Champions League last-16 tie between the teams.
Madrid return to LaLiga action when they face Elche on Wednesday at the Santiago Bernabeu. Al Hilal take on Al Feiha on the same day in the Pro League.
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