ABU DHABI (Reuters): Gareth Bale scored with his first touch after coming off the bench to strike the Real Madrid winner as the European champions survived a scare to beat local side Al Jazira 2-1 on Wednesday and reach the Club World Cup final.
Al Jazira’s Brazilian forward Romarinho gave the Abu Dhabi team a shock lead in the 40th minute of an action-packed game after heavy favourites Real twice hit the woodwork and had two goals ruled out, one after a long consultation between the referee and his video assistant.
Al Jazira looked to have doubled their lead one minute into the second half but the strike from Mbark Boussoufa was correctly ruled out for offside and Cristiano Ronaldo eased Real’s nerves by smashing in the equaliser in the 52nd minute.
Real continued to dominate and Karim Benzema twice hit the woodwork before being replaced by Bale, who met Lucas Vazquez’s cutback to roll the ball into the bottom corner in the 82nd minute and book the holders’ place in Sunday’s final against South American champions Gremio of Brazil.
“It’s hard to explain the game, all I can say is that we deserved to win and reach the final,” Real coach Zinedine Zidane told reporters.
Zidane’s side are bidding to become the first team to successfully defend the Club World Cup while victory over Gremio would also equal Barcelona’s record three triumphs in the competition.