MARRAKECH: European champions Real Madrid turned on the party tricks as they sailed into the Club World Cup final by crushing Cruz Azul 4-0 on Tuesday.
The Mexican side, with far more limited resources than the Spanish giants, did their best to make a game of it and missed a first-half penalty but
were chasing shadows from the moment Gareth Bale headed the third goal five minutes into the second half.
Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema were on target in the opening half before Bale and Isco completed the scoring as Real recorded a 21st consecutive win at a packed and noisy Grand Stade de Marrakech.
Real’s opponents in Saturday’s final will be either South American champions San Lorenzo of Argentina or Auckland City, a New Zealand team of amateurs and semi-pros that is the Oceania champion.
A win on Saturday would secure Real their first Club World Cup and cap an exceptional year when they also won the Champions League and Copa del Rey.
“Only a match away from a new opportunity, we’ll be ready 100 percent,” Real coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “I think the team deserves this title.”
Cristiano Ronaldo did not add to his total of 56 goals in 2014 for Madrid, including 32 this season, but had the crowd in raptures in the second period when he met a cross on the half volley with a ‘rabona’ effort that goalkeeper Jose Corona did well to save and left Ancelotti’s assistants laughing behind him on the bench.
“I’ve never seen a shot like this, but from Ronaldo we have to expect everything,” Ancelotti said. “Ronaldo didn’t score but he is always there helping the team and creating chances.”
Luis Fernando Tena’s North American champions had struggled to beat Western Sydney Wanderers to make the semis and rarely troubled Ancelotti’s almost full strength side.
“We knew it was going to be hard and my players gave everything. But they were so much better than we were and the result reflects that fairly,” said Tena. “It’s been a joy to play such a skillful team, individually and collectively.”
Real quickly took control against the CONCACAF champions and an early goal was on the cards.
Ronaldo was denied at point-blank range by Corona and Benzema shaved the post before the keeper misjudged a Toni Kroos free kick and Ramos headed home.
Cruz Azul responded well but failed to make the most of their openings. Joao Rojas took too long over a shot, then Rojas and Mariano Pavone got in each other’s way after Christian Gimenez’s incisive pass opened up the Real defence.
French centre-forward Benzema showed his astonishing speed in the 36th minute to pounce on Daniel Carvajal’s cross before the defence had even flinched to make it 2-0 after 36 minutes.
Iker Casillas did have to face a penalty in the 40th minute after Ramos was harshly judged to have pushed Pavone, but the veteran Spain stopper was equal to Gerardo Torrado’s weak spot-kick.
Ronaldo provided the ammunition for the next two.
The Portuguese icon provided an inch perfect delivery that Bale nodded home totally unmarked in the 50th and then teed up the impressive Isco who slalomed his way through the Cruz Azul defence for the fourth.