Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Real Madrid survived a scare to beat Japanese side Kashima Antlers in extra time. Much like the first CWC match against Club América, Los Blancos played this one almost as if it was a friendly. Antlers came out with an intensity that surprised Real Madrid, and an intensity that nearly won them the match in the dying minutes. After going down early in the second half, Madrid suddenly needed a hero to bring them back. Adding yet another big moment to his incredible year, Ronaldo scored a hat trick to finally put the Japanese Champions to bed.
Sergio Ramos returned and replaced Nacho in an otherwise unchanged XI.
After holding possession for almost the entire first 8 minutes of the match, Real Madrid finally carved out their first chance of the game. Modric’s outside shot was parried right into the path of Karim Benzema, who promptly gave Los Blancos a 1-0 lead. Almost immediately after, Kashima nearly equalized. An attacking move ended with Ogasawara striking a well-hit shot just over the crossbar.
For the remainder of the half, any positive plays were created by Benzema or Lucas Vazquez, as Madrid looked for a second goal to put Kashima away. Just when it looked like Real Madrid were cruising into halftime, calamitous defending allowed Shibasaki to level the match at 1 goal apiece. Los Blancos were probably a bit unlucky to go into halftime with just one goal, but should’ve been more frustrated with they way they conceded at the end of the half.
Despite just leveling the match at 1, Kashima Antlers were still not content with the scoreline. The Japanese side said “Game on” when Shibasaki completed his brace with a long, left-footed shot into the bottom corner. This goal was once again a result of poor defending from the Spanish side, however, that should not take away from the excellent finish by Japanese international.
After falling behind, Real Madrid began attacking as they did to start the match. Dangerous balls were played into the box, but they amounted to nothing. Just six minutes after falling behind, Real Madrid drew a penalty. A beautiful pass from Karim Benzema resulted in Lucas Vazquez getting fouled while trying to catch up to the ball. A flawless penalty from Cristiano Ronaldo leveled the match once again with half an hour still to play.
Not even one minute later, Los Blancos had two chances to score. A run from Ronaldo ended with a selfish shot despite having two unmarked passing options in the box. The resulting corner ended with Ramos volleying a free chance high of the goal. At this point, it was one-way traffic in favor of Real Madrid. Later in the half, Ronaldo failed to convert 2 more big chances in the span of as many minutes; the first created by a Vazquez cross, and the second by yet another key pass from Benzema.
With just minutes to play, Kashima nearly found the back of the net with a snapshot from outside of the box. Shockingly, Sergio Ramos was not sent off after a blatant foul in the 90th minute, with the official reaching into his pocket before changing his mind. The drama of the match intensified when a cross bounced to a Kashima player with no time remaining. He hit it wide from an impossible angle and the match went into Extra Time.
The fast-paced tempo of the second half had cooled down by the time extra time rolled around. Despite having the lion’s share of the possession, Real Madrid failed to create anything clear cut. But after eight minutes, Benzema found Ronaldo again, and this time the Portuguese made no mistake.
The exhausted Antlers would have to find a third goal. They got their chance in the 101st minute. Poor marking gave the Japanese side a free header, which Los Blancos were lucky to see bounce off the crossbar. Antlers would rue this missed chance, because just four minutes later a pass from Kroos was hammered home by Ronaldo to finally kill off the game.
In a match that should’ve been comfortably won by Real Madrid, poor finishing combined with horrid defending allowed Kashima to make this a tightly contested match. Although Ronaldo scored a hat trick, Karim Benzema was the best player on the pitch tonight. The Frenchman’s link up play was essential in creating chances for other teammates.
As also seen in the tweet, Toni Kroos was absolutely everywhere tonight. Spraying his typical pinpoint passes, and even beating multiple players off the dribble to create opportunities. The Japanese side fought valiantly, but in the end Los Blanco’s superior talent won out. A great year for the club was capped off by a third trophy, and Ronaldo’s 40th hat trick in a white jersey. Real Madrid will be back in action on the 7th of January, where they will take on bottom feeders Granada at home.