Kashima Antlers gave a strong account of themselves in Sunday’s Club World Cup final against Real Madrid as they pushed their opponents to the limit in a 4-2 defeat after extra time.
The J.League champions went up against the UEFA Champions League winners in Yokohama and fell behind in the ninth minute when Karim Benzema turned home a rebound.
But Los Blancos were unprepared for a spirited Antlers fightback and Gaku Shibasaki equalised in the first half before netting a sensational individual strike after the break to put them in front.
Masatada Ishii’s men were evenly matched after and could even have gone in front were it not for the saves of Keylor Navas.
However, Antlers were unprepared for the match-winning heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo, who blasted home a hat-trick subsequently.
The 2016 Ballon d’Or winner netted Madrid’s equaliser from the penalty spot on the hour mark after Shuto Yamamoto brought down Lucas Vazquez, forcing the match to extra time.
There, Ronaldo would add two more and fire his side to their second Club World Cup triumph in three years, though Antlers won the admiration and respect of onlookers for solid showing.