In a game with surprisingly low attendance, Real Madrid triumphed by a score of 2-0. Goals from both Benzema and Ronaldo ensured that Real Madrid’s unbeaten run extended to 36 matches. This game went exactly as most predicted, with Los Blancos dominant from the opening whistle. Club America did little to trouble the Spanish side, and only poor finishing from Real Madrid kept the match close. With starters Pepe, Sergio Ramos, and Gareth Bale all out injured, there were just 3 changes in an otherwise first-choice XI.
✅ #RMCWC— Real Madrid C. F. (@realmadrid) December 15, 2016
¡Este es nuestro once inicial para la semifinal del Mundial de Clubes @ClubAmerica!#HalaMadrid pic.twitter.com/fr3oGR5wsP
Lining up in a 5-3-2, the storied CONCACAF club made their intentions known within the first 20 seconds through a hard foul on the young Lucas Vazquez. This was a trend that continued whenever Madrid got anywhere near the top of the box in the attacking third. Despite the Mexican side’s physicality, Real Madrid did a good job of holding possession as they sought an opening goal.
The first half-decent chance fell to Lucas right outside of the box, who volleyed it well wide in the seventh minute. Lucas continued to be a big attacking threat, and was lively on the right wing for the remainder of the match. After 15 minutes, Ronaldo was played in on goal, and after hitting the post was ruled offside. Just 10 minutes later, Ronaldo rose to meet a Vazquez cross, and instead of scoring the massive chance, the Portuguese shockingly hit the post.
Real Madrid remained dominant throughout the rest of the first half, creating multiple chances, and being denied by the linesman’s flag twice more. However, just before the stroke of halftime, a gorgeous pass by Toni Kroos was matched by the outside-the-boot finish from Karim Benzema. The goal had been coming, and in an instant Club America had to change their entire approach at halftime.
The second half started as much of the same, with Real Madrid holding possession while America tried to sit back and counter. Los Blancos looked dangerous, drawing an offside flag (again), and creating what would have likely been a goalscoring chance if the ball had just stayed in play. Once Club America realized that they needed to score, they tried to push forward for an equalizer. In their failure to breakdown Real Madrid, counter-attacking opportunities were created. In the sixty-first minute, another big chance fell to Ronaldo off another Lucas cross. Unfortunately for Cristiano, he failed to score again, as Real missed another chance to kill the match off.
After 65 minutes, yet another Lucas Vazquez cross ended with Ronaldo missing a sitter. The follow up by Modric was wide, and still Real remained with just one goal. With that said, at no point did it look as though America would score. Every attack was either stuffed by the defense, or culminated in a long distance shot that hardly troubled Navas.
Los Blanco’s first sub of the match was James Rodriguez, and then shortly after, Morata replaced Benzema. It became more and more apparent as the match went on that every time Club America lost the ball in this match, Lucas and Ronaldo looked to break over and over again. Just a few minutes until time, another chance went wide from Morata, and everyone assumed that the match would finish 1-0. Finally, Ronaldo made up for his missed chances earlier in the game, and scored off an assist from James Rodriguez.
This match was played at Real Madrid’s pace. Los Blancos were often lethargic, and occasionally seemed disinterested in their opponents, but the result never looked in doubt. Real Madrid never left second gear, and they didn’t have to. Club America never had a shot inside Real Madrid’s box the entire match, while Madrid’s poor finishing kept it a one-goal game. Carvajal was surprisingly poor, and whether that’s the fault of jet lag or just fatigue in general, Dani will appreciate the winter break as much as anyone. Vazquez was one giant ball of energy today, and put multiple chances on a platter for CR7. The Spaniard continues to reward Zidane for his confidence in him, and should be an ample replacement for Gareth Bale until the Welshman returns. Real Madrid were unlucky to not score more, but will not complain about the result. Zidane’s men will face Kashima Antlers this Sunday for the Club World Cup trophy.