Real make easy work of Cruz Azul, advance to FIFA Club World Cup final
Real Madrid underscored its desire to win the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time with a commanding 4-0 victory over Cruz Azul on Wednesday.
Madrid entered the competition at the semifinal stage and produced an impressive performance worthy of the scene set in Marrakech.
Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema struck to consolidate an impressive first-half display. Iker Casillas produced a penalty save from Gerardo Torrado to protect the two-goal advantage heading into the inveral before Gareth Bale and Isco pounced after the break to complete the rout.
The resounding victory sent Madrid through to face the winner of the second semifinal between San Lorenzo and Auckland City in the final on Saturday.
On this evidence, those two sides will face a Herculean task to prevent Madrid from securing its first victory in this competition. Madrid exerted its will over the game from the outset and quickly revealed the impending advantage created by Dani Carvajal's endeavors on the right. His cross to the back post allowed Benzema to cushion a header for Ronaldo inside the penalty area, but Jose de Jesus Corona produced a fine save after just three minutes.
The early opening foreshadowed the carnage to come with Madrid able and willing to use its pace in the wide areas and its tempo in possession to pull apart Cruz Azul. The pressure finally told inside the opening quarter of an hour as Madrid exploited Cruz Azul's dreadful set piece marking to grab a foothold in the game.
Carvajal tempted the overwhelmed Fausto Pinto to impede his run on the right. Toni Kroos curled the resulting free kick toward the top of the penalty area. Sergio Ramos ghosted past the slipshod Cruz Azul line to turn home from close range.
Cruz Azul attempted to produce a response, but the Mexican outfit lacked the energy and the skill across the board to present much of a threat. Joao Rojas posed most of the threats with his willingness to run at Marcelo on the right, but Sergio Ramos slid over to block his most promising effort just before the half-hour.
It proved an important intervention given Carvajal's continued productivity and the second goal just around the corner. The enterprising fullback emerged from a one-versus-three situation on the right to reach the endline. His delicately clipped cross fell perfectly at the top of the goal area to allow Benzema to stab home the second after 36 minutes.
Torrado received a prompt attempt to conjure a lifeline for his side just four minutes later. Clever work by Mauro Formica in the attacking third cobbled together the best Cruz Azul move of the match. His neat throughball enticed Mariano Pavone to turn past Sergio Ramos' far shoulder and tumble to the ground once he felt contact.
The veteran Mexican international stepped up to the spot in a bid to score his third penalty in two matches, but Casillas read his intentions well and sprung to his right to parry away the tame effort.
Any designs of a competitive second half seeped away with Casillas' save and Madrid's third shortly after the interval. Ronaldo galloped down the left side and rounded off his run with an inviting cross to the back post. Bale met the service with a downward header to subdue any fanciful thoughts of a Cruz Azul revival.
At that point, the focus shifted from the result to the entertainment value ahead. Cruz Azul looked tattered at the back and utterly fatigued from its exertions at the weekend. Madrid reveled in the space afforded and threatened with every meaningful touch inside the attacking third.
Ronaldo nearly produced a moment of magic with a stunning rabona just after the hour, but his more routine dollop of stepovers entranced the Cruz Azul defense long enough to create the opening for the four. His perfectly weighted ball from the left located Isco in ample space at the top of the penalty area and paved the way for a silky first time finish.
Madrid could have added to its haul over the course of the final quarter of an hour, but the European champions did not need to do so. Their professional display on the night brushed aside the overmatched Mexican outfit and reinforced their status as the heavy favorites to win this title of the first time on Saturday.