Abu Dhabi: It was very nearly one of the greatest shocks in football history, but Real Madrid came back from a goal down to beat Al Jazira 2-1 in Wednesday’s Fifa Club World Cup semi-final at Zayed Sports City stadium.
Romarinho stunned the European champions by putting the local hosts ahead just before half-time, before Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale struck in the second half to spare Real Madrid the blushes and set-up an all-star final on Saturday at the same venue against Brazil’s Gremio.
Romarinho’s 42nd minute opener measured on the Richter scale after seven first half saves from Jazira keeper Ali Khaseif and two disallowed goals for Real Madrid to leave Los Blancos walking in at the break an astonishing one goal down. Totally against the run of play and to the surprise of the footballing world, Romarinho put Al Jazira ahead just before the interval when a mix-up in midfield allowed Ali Mabkhout and Romarinho to emerge in space with Mabkhout planting Romarinho wide ready for the Brazilian to drill his effort into the right of goal.
Leading up to that point, and up the other end, keeper Ali Khaseif had been phenomenal for Al Jazira with a flurry of saves, first clearing off the line from two Ronaldo headers, then tipping Luka Modric’s shot onto the post.
Ronaldo struck straight at Ali Khaseif from Benzema’s pass soon after, and the Portuguese had yet another advance blocked by the Emirati moments later with only a winding Ali Mabkhout run up the other end punctuating the onslaught.
A third Ronaldo header was punched clear by Ali Khaseif before Benzema headed over. Then Modric’s effort teed down by Benzema was edged out by Ali Khaseif, before Mabkhout shot wide from Mbark Bousoufa’s cross, as Al Jazira broke again on the counter.
Benzema had appeared to have finally put Madrid in front on 23 minutes heading Isco’s cross into goal, but Ronaldo was ruled to have pushed Mohammad Ayed as the ball came in.
Utter confusion then reigned on the half-hour mark as Isco’s cross headed in by Casemiro went in off Salem Rashid. The referee decided to review the situation using video technology and declared no-goal based on a foul on Rashid. It had appeared Benzema was also in an offside position when the cross came in.
The unthinkable, the chances of a 2-0 lead for Al Jazira was too good be true after all just after the break when Mabkhout’s one-on-one passed wide to Bousoufa was buried into goal by the Moroccan, but was ruled offside.
Al Khaseif, who had played unbelievably this far, then came off injured for Khaled Al Sinaani on 51 minutes, and two minutes later a pinpoint pass from Modric found Ronaldo who swung his equaliser around the replacement shot-stopper.
Sinaani made up for it by punching Benzema’s shot clear and was lucky to be twice saved by his post from two Benzema efforts either side of Romarinho hitting the side-netting up the other end.
Benzema then made way for Gareth Bale and with the Welshman’s first touch he struck between the legs of Ronaldo to make it 2-1 on 81 minutes to end the contest.