Bale makes hay against Kashima in Club World Cup
Real Madrid forward scores quick-fire hat-trick in semi-final against Japanese side
Gareth Bale completes his hat-trick. Photograph: Francois Nel/Getty Images
The Real forward had been doubtful for the semi-final clash in Abu Dhabi due to an ankle sprain, but proved his fitness in superb style.
He calmly slotted home the opener in the closing stages of the first half, before his quick-fire double early in the second period put the game beyond the Japanese opponents.
Antlers midfielder Shoma Doi reduced the deficit with a consolation 12 minutes from time. UAE club Al-Ain await Real in Saturday’s final following their shock penalty shootout victory over Copa Libertadores champions River Plate.
European champions Real struggled to create in the first half on Wednesday, until Bale broke the deadlock a minute before the break.
The former Tottenham man collected the ball wide on the left and, following a stylish one-two with left-back Marcelo, slotted home via the right post.
He did not have to wait long for another opportunity and duly doubled his team’s advantage eight minutes after the restart by seizing on a calamitous mix-up between Kashima defender Shuto Yamamoto and goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae to find the empty net.
Bale, whose brace gave Real victory over Liverpool in the Champions League final back in May, completed his treble just two minutes later. Brazil defender Marcelo was once again the provider, sliding the ball into the box for Bale to take a touch and then emphatically lash the ball into the top-right corner.
The Wales international, who now has 10 goals for the season in all competitions, was replaced by Marco Asensio with half an hour remaining, before Doi’s low shot under Thibaut Courtois was allowed to stand following a video assistant referee review for a potential offside.
Real have won this competition three times, a record they jointly hold with bitter rivals Barcelona.