After defeating Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia 5-3 in the FIFA Club World Cup final on Saturday in Rabat, Morocco, Vinicius Junior and Federico Valverde both scored twice as Real Madrid won the tournament for a record-extending fifth time.
The European Champions League champions Madrid were strong underdogs against their Asian opponents, and they duly jumped out to a 2-0 lead inside just 20 minutes thanks to goals from Vinicius and Valverde.
But Moussa Marega’s goal for Al Hilal, the first Saudi Arabian side to reach the championship, gave the game new life.
With just over 30 minutes left, Madrid appeared to have secured the victory with two more quick-fire goals scored early in the second half by the recovered Karim Benzema and another by Uruguayan midfielder Valverde.
Instead, Al Hilal’s re-entry into the game thanks to a brace from former Atletico Madrid attacker Luciano Vietto, either side of a second from Vinicius, is unlikely to excite Madrid manager Ancelotti.
Madrid had enough to hold on for a well-earned victory in a match that established the record for the most combined goals in a Club World Cup final, even if Al Hilal may have caused some serious late drama if not for a poor shot from Marega.
The Spanish powerhouses, who previously won three championships in four years between 2014 and 2018, have now triumphed in all five tournament finals that they have participated in. With three triumphs, Barcelona is the next-most successful team in the FIFA competition, which started in 2000 and has been held yearly since 2005.
The trophy has now been won by European teams in the last 10 Club World Cups.
There were some errors at the defence, but there was a lot of quality up front, according to Ancelotti. “The injured players, Karim, [Eder] Militao, and [Thibaut] Courtois, are returning, and this title provides us a push to prepare for this conclusion of the season, and we still have a lot of confidence,” said Thibaut Courtois. We had a successful tournament, and given our recent games’ improvements, we’re eager to battle to the very finish in all of our remaining games and competitions.
A day after Carlo Ancelotti admitted it was touch-and-go if Benzema could play at all, his inclusion in Madrid’s starting lineup came as a small surprise. The winner of the Ballon d’Or missed Madrid’s past two contests, including Wednesday’s 4-1 semifinal victory against the Egyptian team Al Ahly.
The France striker put Vinicius clean to beat Abdullah Al-Mayouf in goal after exchanging passes with Valverde. Al-Mayouf got a leg to the shot but was unable to stop it from going into his net.
In the 18th minute, Valverde doubled the lead by smashing a shoddy clearance through the legs of a defender, who just slightly deflected it before it flew past Al-Mayouf.
Al Hilal, though, got their footing in the 26th minute as Marega caught Madrid’s backline trying to spring an offside trap after struggling to even connect three passes in the initial period. The backup goalkeeper for Madrid, Andriy Lunin, who began in place of the injured Thibaut Courtois, seemed unfazed as the former Porto striker dashed away.
Vinicius met Benzema’s darting move by bending a cross around a defender with the outside edge of his right boot. In the 54th minute, Benzema completed the task by turning it into the top of the net with just one touch.
In the 58th, Valverde added his second.
With Madrid’s defence unable to keep tabs on the Argentine in the box, Vietto scored in the 63rd and 79th minutes, either side of Vinicius’ second goal.
Al Hilal lost the chance to attempt a last-ditch equaliser due to a late Marega error.