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.
Zinedine 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.
Real fielded a full-strength side with the exception of the injured Sergio Ramos and made an explosive start, having five attempts on goal in the first 12 minutes.
Al Jazira goalkeper Ali Khasif played a huge part in keeping the European champions at bay, saving from Ronaldo from close range, pushing Raphael Varane’s shot on to the bar and turning Luka Modric’s shot on to the post.
He continued to repel a barrage of shots even after appearing to sustain an injury but was withdrawn early in the second half before Real could get past him.
The game became shrouded in confusion over Real’s second disallowed goal, scored by Casemiro, which Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci first ruled out for offside against Karim Benzema, then awarded. He ruled it out again following consultation with his video assistant.
Al Jazira took the lead with their first attack as a slip from Casemiro allowed his compatriot Romarinho enter the area and produce a classy low finish beyond shell-shocked Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Real finally capitalised on their glut of chances when Ronaldo arrowed home a through ball from Luka Modric past substitute goalkeeper Khalid Al Senaani, who was then beaten again by Bale.