YOKOHAMA (Japan) • Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed a hat-trick as Real Madrid survived a scare to beat Japan's Kashima Antlers 4-2 and win the Club World Cup yesterday.
A Gaku Shibasaki double threatened one of football's greatest shocks after Karim Benzema had given Real an early lead in Yokohama. But Ronaldo equalised from the penalty spot before pouncing twice in extra time to give the Spanish giants their second world title in three years and fifth in total.
"Bloody hell, what a game," said a breathless Ronaldo. "We had to suffer, but that's what finals are about. It's a trophy we really wanted to win and we end the year in the best way possible so I'm very happy."
The victory extended Real's club-record unbeaten run to 37 matches in all competitions, while French coach Zinedine Zidane surpassed Fabio Capello's record for their best start to a season.
The European champions, yet to be defeated in 26 games this campaign, were forced to dig deep by an Antlers side who finished a distant third over the J-League season.
Benzema's opener was cancelled out on the stroke of half-time by Shibasaki, who took advantage of some calamitous defending from Raphael Varane to score.
The Japan midfielder then sparked wild celebrations among a crowd of 68,000 seven minutes after the break when he smashed home a shot from distance.
But, just when it seemed like Kashima - the first Asian team to reach a Club World Cup final - would make more history, Ronaldo restored parity from the spot.
The 31-year-old, who scooped his fourth Ballon d'Or last week, put Real back in front with a clinical low finish eight minutes into extra time.
And the Portuguese superstar completed his hat-trick - the first in a Club World Cup final - six minutes later with another poacher's strike to break Japanese hearts.
He is also the joint-top scorer in the competition's history - with five goals - alongside Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Cesar Delgado.
"The stats don't lie," Ronaldo said. "I've had a spectacular season. People often criticise me but I'm used to it. I just carry on working on the pitch and get on with my job of winning titles."
European teams have now won the Club World Cup nine times in the past 10 years.
"My players were brave, their attitude was great and I feel we have grown as a club through this tournament," said Kashima coach Masatada Ishii.
Earlier, Atletico Nacional beat Mexico's Club America 4-3 on penalties to finish third after an emotional three weeks for the Colombian side.
Atletico made headlines when Chapecoense's squad were all but wiped out by a plane crash while en route to play them in the Copa Sudamericana final.
"We can understand the pain the families and loved ones of Chapecoense must be suffering and it was on our mind while we played here in Japan," Atletico coach Reinaldo Rueda said.