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.
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Carlo Ancelotti's side, record four-time Club World Cup champions, hoped the tournament would be a welcome distraction from their domestic struggles.
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.
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 the Egyptian side were poised to make to 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.
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 were made to pay when Rodrygo and substitute Arribas struck in stoppage time to seal Madrid's victory.