Gareth Bale scored the winner for Real Madrid in the second semi-final of the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Emirates, as they slugged it out with home favourites Al-Jazira.
The vital goal in the 81st minute, moments after replacing Karim Benzema propelled Madrid into the final billed for Saturday, giving them an opportunity to win the cup for the third time and match the tournament record of their Spanish rival, Barcelona.
Madrid will face the Brazilian team Gremio, the Copa Libertadores champions, who beat Pachuka, the Mexican team, by a lone goal on Tuesday.
Madrid were stunned in the 41st minute when Romarinho opened scoring for Al Jazira, when he flipped a ball in the right corner, some minutes into the break. Goal keeper Kaylor Nevas was clearly beaten.
Romarinho had pounced on an uncharacteristic mistake by Madrid defence to slot beyond Keylor Navas, though Madrid had dominated possession 70-30.
Madrid were unable to score even with five minutes added time in the first half.
In the second half, Al Jazira’s lead was almost doubled moments after resumption of play. However, a VAR call saw Mbark Boussoufa’s strike chalked off for offside.
The home team were further gutted with the thigh injury sustained by keeper Ali Khaseif, who had frustrated many moves by Madrid.
He was replaced by Khaled Al Senani.
Perhaps Cristiano Ronaldo was waiting for the moment as he was on target and equalised for Madrid. Rediscovering his clinical touch, he picked out the bottom left corner with a superb half volley.
Karim Benzema should have swung the game firmly back in Madrid’s favour, but twice rattled the same post from inside the area.
Ten minutes from the end of the second half, Gareth Bale, who had been out on injury came in to replace Benzema. A minute after, he justified Coach Zinedine Zidane’s technical change by scoring the winner.
Overall, Madrid had 35 attempts on goal, to six by Al Jazira.