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For the Record: Real Madrid 2, Al Jazira 1

December 13th, 2017 · No Comments · Arabian Gulf League, Fifa, Football, soccer

Yes, I was the guy who suggested this match could end 4-0, and added 7-0 might be OK if the UAE club held mighty Real Madrid scoreless for, say, a half-hour.

I underestimated Al Jazira, the Arabian Gulf League champions, in a semifinal of the Fifa Club World Cup.

And perhaps Real did, too.

But there it was, Jazira apparently up 2-0 late in the first half, and fans of the Emiratis club were allowed to think the UAE side might actually defeat the 12-time European champions of Modric and Isco and Navas and Ronaldo, et al, and advance to the finals of the global tournament.

Then …

… Jazira’s second goal, by Mbark Boussoufa, was taken off the board after the Video Assistant Referee — used in this tournament on a experimental basis — overturned the decision of “goal” on the field and decided Boussoufa had been marginally offside as he received a pass from Ali Mabkhout. And, to be fair, replays suggested the guy in the press box had it right and the officials on the pitch had it wrong.

It was still 1-0, Jazira, on a 41st-minute goal by Romarinho, but Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the 53rd minute, and from that point only the least informed or most naive though Jazira would outscore a more focused Real the rest of the way.

It was Real forward Gareth Bale, the Welshman who has been dogged by injuries in recent season, who broke the tie in the 81st minute, moments after entering the match.

It was a great effort and fine performance by Jazira, who were buoyed in the first half by their veteran keeper, Ali Khaseif, as well as a hustling defense.

Unfortunately, Khaseif suffered a muscle strain and was removed in the 51st minute, and his understudy, Khaled Al Sinani, leaked two goals that the first halg suggested Khaseif would have stopped.

Said Bale of Khaseif: “He was amazing. We were kinda joking a bit on the bench but then it started getting a bit more serious.”

Jazira is the only club in this competition that is not champion of its region. Fifa allows the host country to enter its national champion, and that would be Jazira, who beat Oceania champion Auckland City and Asia champion Urawa Reds, each 1-0, to reach the semifinals of the annual tournament.

For more specifics about the match, check the report filed by my former colleague John McAuley, on The National’s website.

Also, Paul Radley did a piece on proud Jazira coach Henk ten Cate, whose team gave Real a bit of a scare before one of the world’s greatest clubs finally pulled ahead.

Perhaps we should have anticipated something a bit closer than the blowout many of us expected, given that Kashima Antlers, the host team in the 2016 Club World Cup reached the final and led Real 2-1 in the second half of the final before succumbing 4-2 in extra time.

Now, Jazira faces Pachuco of Mexico in the third-place match on Sunday, followed by Real meeting South American champion Gremio, of Brazil, in the title game, starting at 9 p.m. (UAE time, 9 a.m. PST).

Jazira’s players and staff and fans no doubt will be talking about this for years — how their team led 2-0, for a minute there, and 1-0 until the 53rd minute, and it took Gareth Bale to come on and bail out mighty Real.


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