Ronaldo hat trick leads Real Madrid to Club World Cup title
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his third goal against Kashima Antlers in the overtime of their final match at the FIFA Club World Cup soccer tournament in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Jim Armstrong, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, December 18, 2016 10:34AM EST
YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick on Sunday as European champion Real Madrid claimed its second Club World Cup title by beating Japanese side Kashima Antlers 4-2 after extra time.
"This has been an unbelievable year for me and for the team," Ronaldo said. "A few days ago, I won the Ballon d'Or so it has been a perfect year for me."
With the score at 2-2 after normal time, Ronaldo received a pass from Karim Benzema in the 98th minute and calmly fired under Kashima goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata to make it 3-2.
The Portuguese star then sealed the win six minutes later with a left-footed shot to the roof of the net.
"We knew this was going to be a difficult match," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "The opponent was very aggressive and was attacking. But we always believe in our ability to attack the opponent. We have so many talented players, so we can achieve great things."
Benzema scored Madrid's first goal in the ninth minute of the final, pouncing on a rebound off Luka Modric's volley that was palmed away by Sogahata.
Gaku Shibasaki equalized in the final minute of the first half and put his team ahead seven minutes after the break when he evaded three defenders on the edge of the box and fired a left-footed strike past an outstretched Keylor Navas.
Kashima defender Shuto Yamamoto took Lucas Vazquez down in the box on the hour mark and Ronaldo levelled the score at 2-2 with the resulting penalty kick.
Ronaldo, who was named man of the match, won the Club World Cup for the third time adding to titles in 2014 with Madrid and in 2008 with Manchester United.
Madrid captain Sergio Ramos returned to the starting lineup for Sunday's final.
The Spain international wasn't fully fit for Thursday's 2-0 semifinal win over Club America of Mexico and was almost sent off in the 90th minute when he took down Mu Kanazaki.
Madrid is unbeaten in any competition since April 6, a run that has lasted 37 games.
Madrid has the chance to become the first team to win the Champions League, Spanish league, Spain's Copa del Rey, and the Club World Cup in the same season.
Kashima was the first Asian side to progress to the final. The J-League champions beat Auckland City, Mamelodi Sundowns, and Atletico Nacional to reach the final.
Atletico Nacional sealed third place earlier Sunday, beating Mexican side Club America 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw.
Substitute Miguel Borja converted the winning spot kick for the Copa Libertadores champion, after Osvaldo Martinez and Miguel Samudio had earlier missed for America.
Nacional took an early lead after an own-goal in the sixth minute by America defender Samudio.
Alejandro Guerra made it 2-0 in the 26th, steering home a cutback by Orlando Berrio, who was man of the match.
Michael Arroyo started the comeback for America in the 38th, slamming home from close range after Samudio's ball into the box.
Substitute Oribe Peralta then made it 2-2 from the penalty spot in the 66th after Samudio had been fouled by Farid Diaz.