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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 1 - 0 Gremio

Ronaldo scores a golazo, and Real Madrid lift their fifth trophy of 2017

Gremio v Real Madrid: Final - FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images

Real Madrid put in a very balanced and professional performance in the final of the Club World Championships. A Cristiano Ronaldo free-kick and solid defensive shift was enough to win the trophy. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.

After playing a ridiculously high defensive line against Al Jazira, where Real Madrid had zero faith in their opponent’s counter-attacking ability, Zidane’s men decided to clamp down with a more balanced scheme in tonight’s Club World Cup final — giving us more confirmation in our initial assessment that the blueprint against Al Jazira was an anomaly that wouldn’t be repeated against better opponents.

And it wasn’t. It may have been true that Real Madrid didn’t create a plethora of clear-cut chances, and, their xGs tonight would’ve been dramatically lower than they were in the semi-final — but Zidane’s men played well. All the central midfielders tonight provided fantastic coverage all over the pitch. Gremio didn’t have many counter-attacking opportunities, and when they did, Real Madrid dealt with them well. In truth, Gremio were victims of Real Madrid taking this final more seriously than they did the semi-final.

Even despite the xG being as low as it was (relative to the match agains Al Jazira), the team looked good out there. Some of the offensive sequences with the ball looked fantastic. Isco did a lot to help Marcelo defensively, and was incisive. I had a lot of complaints on social media today about ‘Isco slowing the play’, but I thought in this game, it was a harsh statement. Generally, when the team suffers because of his freedom, it’s a schematic issue rather than a personnel one. But tonight, I thought his presence provided balance. To boot, Luka Modric was other-worldly good. He was, everywhere. He helped Carvajal defensively, won possession, carved his way through tight spaces, created chances, and controlled the match.

Real Madrid lift yet another trophy tonight — their fifth of 2017. Gremio was supposed to provide a much tougher challenge for us, but when the team clicks into gear when the stakes are high, they take care of business. Again, no real complaints here apart from inefficient decision-making from Ronaldo and Benzema in the final third, and Toni Kroos finding himself in positions he can’t get out of high up the pitch. Even Gareth Bale came on late in the game and had some nice touches -- further building momentum before El Clasico.

Next up: vs Barcelona at the Bernabeu in a week’s time.

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