Ablazing free-kick from Cristiano Ronaldo was all that Real Madrid needed to top Gremio 1-0 in the final of the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup on Saturday night at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
For Real, it marks their third Club World Cup title in the tournament’s current format, tying them for first all-time with rivals Barcelona. Meanwhile, the goal for Ronaldo was the seventh for the Portuguese in Club World Cup competition.
Real were largely in control for the bulk of the match, and once Ronaldo scored via his free-kick, Gremio’s chances of an upset dwindled significantly. Luka Modric was a force to be reckoned with in midfield and put his stamp on the affair with another superb performance.
READ ALSO: KABA final funeral rite
Defenders Dani Carvajal and Sergio Ramos and midfielder Toni Kroos all returned to Zinedine Zidane’s starting XI after being on the bench against Al-Jazira in the semi-final, giving Real the same line-up the started against Juventus in the Champions League final. This also meant another start on the bench for semifinal hero Gareth Bale.
It was a cagey start, with Real taking the initiative but Gremio doing well to close down on spaces in their own half. Things started loosening up around the 20th minute mark when a bullet from Carvajal was cleared by Geromel in front of goal. That was followed by a low-driven shot from Luka Modric that just sailed wide of the post.
Gremio were doing themselves no favours. Luan, in particular, was imprecise in leading the Brazilians’ attack and it made for easy work for the Real defence. Their first chance came near the half-hour mark from a long-range free-kick from Edilson that whistled above Keylor Navas’ crossbar.
There was more urgency to Real’s play to start the second-half, and after using some fancy footwork to draw a foul near the Gremio area, Ronaldo fired in a rocket of a free-kick that went screaming through a hole in the Gremio wall and into net for the 1-0 lead.
Real were brimming with confidence after the goal and thought that Ronaldo had scored a second after he hammered in a right-footer off a header from Karim Benzema, but the linesman ruled that the French striker had received a pass from Marcelo in an offside position.
With way more space in which to work, the chances kept flowing for Los Blancos, and a Modric shot from outside the area almost made it two, only for the ball to smack off the post.
Despite all their dominance, it was still just a one-goal advantage for Zidane’s men heading into the final 15 minutes. The French boss brought on Bale for Benzema to finish off the Copa Libertadores winners. The Welshman was an immediate threat and forced a finger-tip save out of Gremio goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe.
At the other end Navas was never truly troubled, and Real comfortably saw out the final minutes to clinch their fifth title of 2017 before turning their attention to next Saturday’s Clasico versus Barcelona.
1.- Real Madrid: Keylor; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Isco (Lucas Vazquez, min. 73), Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Cristiano, Benzema (Bale, min. 79)
0.- Gremio: Marcelo Grohe; Edilson, Geromel, Kannemann, Cortez; Jailson, Michel (Maicon, min. 84); Ramiro (Everton, min. 71), Luan, Fernandinho; Lucas Barrios (Jael, min. 63).
Goals: 1-0, min. 53: Ronaldo
Referee: Cesar Ramos (Mexico). Yellow Cards: Casemiro (Min. 27) for Real Madrid
Red cards: None
Stadium: Zayed Sports City