Real Madrid ease past Al Ahly to reach Club World Cup final
Real Madrid reached the Club World Cup final with a 4-1 win over Egypt's Al Ahly on Wednesday in Morocco, thanks to Vinicius Junior, Fede Valverde, Rodrygo and Sergio Arribas's goals.
The European champions took the lead just before half-time with a Vinicius chip and then Valverde smashed in the second soon after the break.
Madrid endured a nervier spell than they would have liked after Ali Maaloul earned the 10-time African Champions League winners a foothold in the game from the penalty spot.
Luka Modric missed a late penalty for Los Blancos, perhaps distracted by laser pointers shone at his face from the stands, with Mohamed El Shenawy saving his effort.
Rodrygo added a cool finish in stoppage time after a slick combination with Dani Ceballos and youngster Arribas wrapped up the win.
Madrid will face Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal, who beat Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo, in Saturday's final.
"I thank my team-mates who are helping me in this moment, which is not so good," said Valverde, who is reported to be suffering some personal problems away from the game.
"They are always there to give me some words of encouragement.
"It was very special to score the goal and celebrate with them, now we have to rest and work well to win the final."
Carlo Ancelotti's side, record four-time Club World Cup champions, hoped the tournament would be a welcome distraction from their domestic struggles.
On Sunday they fell eight points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona, suffering a 1-0 defeat at Real Mallorca.
However the Spanish giants struggled to get going at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat, without injured stars Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois among others.
Ancelotti was able to start defender David Alaba for the first time since injury.
Al Ahly, who beat MLS side Seattle Sounders and Auckland City on the way to the semi-finals, stayed tight at the back and Madrid toiled to break them down.
Vinicius fired wide from a tight angle and Rodrygo hit the post with a dinked effort after pressing well to win the ball back.
Just when it seemed like former Austria coach Marcel Koller's side were poised to reach half-time with honours even, Mahmoud Metwaly miskicked, allowing Vinicius to rob him and run through on goal.
The Brazilian carefully lofted the ball over El Shenawy to break the deadlock, welcome respite after his hounding by Mallorca players at the weekend and suffering further racist abuse.
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Examining the Cristiano Ronaldo effect with Saudi Arabia & Al-Nassr FC https://t.co/zzl5oC694C
Valverde doubled Madrid's lead at the start of the second half, taking one fine touch to control a loose ball in the box and then blasting home with his second.
The Uruguayan has not been playing well since returning from the World Cup and Madrid will hope his first goal since November can help him find the rich vein of form he was enjoying before the tournament.
Madrid were denied a penalty to wrap the game up when Vinicius was felled in the area but VAR did not correct the referee's decision to award a corner.
Then Eduardo Camavinga, playing at left-back again, was penalised for tripping Hussein El Shahat in the box at the other end and Maaloul sent Andriy Lunin the wrong way from the spot.
Afsha should have levelled for the underdogs but powered a golden chance over the bar after receiving a cut-back in the middle of the box.
Al Ahly, unbeaten all season in the Egyptian Premier League, were made to pay when Rodrygo and substitute Arribas struck in stoppage time to seal Madrid's victory.
After dropping away from Barcelona in La Liga and losing in the Spanish Super Cup against their eternal rivals in January, Madrid took a step away from crisis talk with this victory.
Their next goal is lifting the second trophy of their season on Saturday against Al-Hilal, having won the European Super Cup in August.