Gareth Bale’s stunning hat-trick saw Real Madrid make the final of the 2018 Club World Cup with a 3-1 semi final win over Kashima Antlers.
The European champions will now face Al Ain of United Arab Emirates on Sunday as they look to win the Club World Cup for the third successive year, and the fourth time in five years. On this basis, you would not bet against them.
Real Madrid got off to a sluggish start, but took the lead just before half time when Bale found the back of the net, via the inside of the far post, following some neat exchange play with Marcelo on the edge of the box.
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Real Madrid's Gareth Bale celebrates scoring their first goal with Marcelo

Image credit: Reuters

Bale doubled his side’s advantage after the break, making the most of a defensive mix-up to slide the ball into the empty net, and the Welshman completed his hat trick soon after, firing home from a tight angle after another assist by Marcelo.
Kashima Antlers gave themselves a late lifeline with a goal to make it 3-1, but there was to be no comeback as Real Madrid coasted to a comfortable win, setting up Sunday’s meeting with Al Ain.

TALKING POINT

Is Gareth Bale finally filling Cristiano Ronaldo’s shoes?
The sale of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer didn’t just rob Real Madrid of his goals, but also his spirit and winning mentality. Real Madrid need characters to step up to drag them through games and this match offered a suggestion that Bale could still become that figure. This season has seen mixed performances from Bale, but this performance saw him back to his best, pulling Real Madrid through when they didn’t play all that well.

Bale celebra un gol del Madrid con Marcelo

Image credit: Getty Images

MAN OF THE MATCH

Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) - The Club World Cup is becoming Bale’s tournament. He joined Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in becoming only the third player to score in three different editions of the competition, having scored in the semi finals in 2014, 2017 and now 2018, and seven goals in four games in total. Real Madrid were pretty toothless throughout, but the Welshman posed a real threat down the left side and made the breakthrough that changed the game, completing his hat-trick before trotting off on the hour-mark.

PLAYER RATINGS

Kashima Antlers - Tae 6, Nishi 5, Hyun 5, Shoji 6, Yamamoto 7, Endo 6, Nagaki 5, Silva 5, Abe 5, Doi 6, Serginho 7. Subs - Uchida 5, Leandro 5, Anzai 5.
Real Madrid - Courtois 6, Carvajal 6, Varane 6, Ramos 6, Marcelo 7, Kroos 7, Llorente 7, Modric 5, Vazquez 6, Benzema 7, Bale 9. Subs - Asensio 3, Isco 5, Casemiro 5.

KEY MOMENTS

2’ Courtois forced into a save! Ramos gives up the ball far too cheaply inside his own half, giving Serginho the chance to shoot from a tight angle. It was on target, but Courtois tips wide.
27’ Chance for Kashima! Courtois had to be alert to the danger there. The ball was played over the top for Doi to chase, but the Belgian goalkeeper came out to sweep things up for his team.
44’ GOAL! Kashima Antlers 0-1 Real Madrid: Real Madrid have made the breakthrough and it's Bale who gets it! Marcelo and Bale played a nice one two, sending the Welshman through on goal. The angle was still tight, but he found the back of the net with a low finish across goal and in off the base of the far post.
49’ Blocked on the line! Close to being a second Real Madrid goal. Bale cut back the ball from the byline, Benzema pulled the shot towards goal, beating the keeper, but Yanamoto was back to clear!
53’ GOAL! Kashima Antlers 0-2 Real Madrid: It's a defensive disaster for Kashima Antlers! There didn't look to be much on as an aimless ball was played forward, but a mix up between Tae and Jeong allowed Bale the chance to squeeze home the finish into the empty net.
55’ GOAL! Kashima Antlers 0-3 Real Madrid: That's the game and that's the hat trick for Bale. They were queuing up on the edge of the box, Marcelo played the pass into Bale's feet and the Welsh winger finds the back of the net with a powerful strike. Out of sight.
66’ Vazquez should have scored! That should have been a fourth goal for Real Madrid. Vazquez was clean through, but tried to be too clever with a chipped finish. Tae makes the save.
77’ GOAL! Kashima Antlers 1-3 Real Madrid: Kashima Antlers have given themselves a lifeline! Doi squeezes the finish from a tight angle under Courtois, but the video assistant referees are going to have a look at this. There is a question of offside. Was it on?
79’ The goal stands! Indeed, Kashima Antlers have got a goal back and that will give them hope of mounting a late comeback. Will we see a grand finale? Real Madrid aren't in the clear yet.
85’ Benzemaaaaaa! The French striker is desperate to add his name to the score sheet. This time, he manages to drag his low shot wide of the far post when he probably should have scored.

KEY STATS

Gareth Bale became only the third player after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to score in three different editions of the Club World Cup.
Cristiano Ronaldo is now the only player with more goals (seven) in the Club World Cup than Bale (six).
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