Gareth Bale plundered an 11-minute hat trick as defending champions Real Madrid embarrassed Asian kings Kashima Antlers 3-1 to book the Fifa Club World Cup UAE 2018 final date with Al Ain at the Zayed Sports City.
With a third consecutive title at stake, defending champions didn’t leave anything to chance and fielded all three strikers – Gareth Bale, Lucas Vazquez and Karim Benzema. But it was Kashima who made the first move into the box. Inside two minutes, Real Madrid got dispossessed once, keeper Thibaut Courtois was stretched by Serginho and then there was a scrappy defence of a corner which had three unmarked red shirts poking their heads at an open ball and goal. Kashima missed an early chance and against Real it was a costly one.
Real operated heavily from the left with Marcelo, Bale and Benzema playing as a floater. And in 11 minutes, Real managed their first attempt through Benzema.
In between ‘Las Blancos’ showed their class moves with crowd favourite Marcelo’s sliderule pass catching everyone unaware but Bale was off flying with the ball into the box.
To their credit, Kashima defenders Jung Seunghyun and Daigo Nishi kept Real attackers at bay. A half-hour mark passed, Toni Kroos, Luca Modric and Sergio Ramos joined the goal hunt and Kashima keeper Kwoun Suntae was kept busy.
And in 44 minutes, Real finally broke the deadlock. It was a Bale-Marcelo one-two that saw the midfielder sent a cheeky pass into the box and the striker smash the delivery to make it 1-0.
Despite the goal, Real, labelled Fifa Club of the Century, produced a boring game in front of some 30,500 fans. However, the ‘Whites’ switched to entertainment mode in the second half as Bale-Marcelo duo pushed earnestly.
In 49 minutes, the Welshman almost scored but for an on the line save from defender Shuto Yamamoto. However, minutes later Yamamoto turned from hero to villain as he back passed to Seunghyun but a lurking Bale swallowed the pass and bolted it deep into the goal.
And in 55 minutes, Bale made it 3-0. Marcelo was in the box with the ball and thought about taking the shot but saw Bale in a better position and the striker whacked it past keeper Suntae.
With 11-minute hat trick attempt made, in 60 minutes Bale was substituted with Marco Asensio and with that the Real show ended. With Bale back in hut, Kashima gained confidence and opened up.
And in 78 minutes, Kashima pulled one back through Shoma Doi. But at the end, it wasn’t enough. Kashima will have to wait a bit longer to avenge 2016 final loss.
Now, Real will face UAE side Al Ain in the final to be played at same venue on Saturday. And Kashima can have some solace with a third-place match against River Plate.