Gareth Bale scored a hat-trick as Real Madrid beat Japan’s Kashima Antlers 3-1 on Wednesday to book a spot in the Club World Cup Final. European champions Real will play host side Al Ain FC in Saturday’s final in Abu Dhabi as they bid to win the title for the third year in a row.
Kashima almost made a dream start inside two minutes with a close-range shot from Serginho that was saved by Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Bale opened the scoring in the 44th minute with a left-foot strike into the bottom corner of the net after playing a one-two with Marcelo.
Bale struck his second in the 53rd minute, taking advantage of a defensive mix-up that left the Kashima goal wide open, and the Wales forward made it 3-0 to the Spanish side two minutes later with a left-foot shot into the top corner.
Bale has now scored six goals in the tournament, trailing only his former team mate Cristiano Ronaldo who has netted seven.
“He (Bale) played a superb match,” Real coach Santiago Solari told reporters. “He has shown what he is, and what he can do.”
Bale was substituted in the 60th minute only for his replacement, Asensio to be forced off 14 minutes later due to injury.
“I hope it is not a serious problem with him because it is very that important all the players are fit,” Solari said. “It is a pity that he had to leave the pitch today.”
Asian champions Kashima grabbed a consolation goal in the 78th minute through Shoma Doi.
Kashima, third in the J-League, will meet South American champions River Plate in the third-place playoff earlier on Saturday.
Solari urges Bale to be Real’s main man
Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari has urged Gareth Bale to build on his hat-trick in the Club World Cup semi-final and show he can become the main man in the Spanish capital.
Bale netted all three goals as Real beat Kashima Antlers 3-1 on Wednesday to continue their bid to win the title for the third consecutive year.
The Welshman became only the third player, after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, to score in three different editions of the tournament and his six World Club Cup goals put him one behind former team mate Ronaldo’s record of seven.
There were high expectations for Bale following the Portuguese forward’s departure for Juventus this year, with Real suggesting they did not need to make a new Galactico signing because the former Tottenham Hotspur player could fill the void.
Although they are languishing fourth in La Liga and are on their second coach of the season after Julen Lopetegui was sacked in October, Solari believes Bale’s display against Kashima can be a catalyst.
“We are all expecting this kind of performance from him every Sunday, every Wednesday – every time we play,” Solari said.
“Of course, it is not easy to score three goals every game but I don’t just mean the goals, but also the commitment – he has had this commitment in the last games.
“Today everything was perfect for him; but he can achieve this because he was committed before.”
Bale, who has won four Champions League titles and scored in two finals since his move from Spurs in 2013, has been criticised by the Madrid media due to his injuries, inconsistent form and a perceived lack of integration with the squad.
“He’s shown what he is and what he’s capable of doing,” Solari added. “We are happy with him and we hope he can do it in the final, too.”
Real face Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates in Saturday’s final after they surprised South American champions River Plate on penalties in the first semi.