AL AIN, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Kashima Antlers advanced to the semifinals of the FIFA Club World Cup, and a showdown with Spanish giant Real Madrid, after outlasting Mexican powerhouse Guadalajara 3-2 on Saturday.
The semifinal against the Spanish power will be a rematch of the 2016 Club World Cup final, when Real Madrid beat Kashima 4-2 after extra time.
“This match is going to garner a lot of attention,” said Kashima coach Go Oiwa. “We’ll play aggressively and we’ll play our own football from the very beginning against Real Madrid.”
In Saturday’s match, Brazilian forward Serginho scored from the penalty spot in the 69th minute to put Antlers up 2-1, before substitute Hiroki Abe added the third 15 minutes later.
The CONCACAF club champions had taken the lead just three minutes into the match when Angel Zaldivar scored with a header from inside the box, assisted with a cross from fellow Mexico international Isaac Brizuela.
But Antlers drew level four minutes into the second half when Ryota Nagaki netted on a rapid counterattack.
In a well-executed move, keeper Kwoun Sun-tae played a quick pass up the middle to Serginho, who immediately picked out Shoma Doi on the left. Spotting Nagaki running to the center of the box, Doi sent a cross along the ground that Nagaki tapped in from directly in front.
The Mexicans had been the more aggressive side in the first half, but Antlers began to exert more control after the break.
Serginho coolly converted the penalty, awarded after Guadalajara midfielder Michael Perez tripped Doi, with a strike to the bottom left corner.
Second-half substitute Abe made the score 3-1 with a swerving strike from just inside the box after playing a one-two pass with Koki Anzai.
Guadalajara narrowed the gap and ensured a tense finish when Kashima midfielder Leo Silva put the ball in his own net during a goalmouth scramble after Kwoun saved a 94th-minute penalty kick by Alan Pulido.
Host side Al Ain also advanced to the semifinals, upsetting African champion Esperance of Tunisia 3-0 in their match.
Defender Mohamed Ahmad put Al Ain in front two minutes into the quarterfinal, getting on the end of a cross from Rayan Yaslem and scoring from close range.
The UAE champions went up 2-0 in the 16th minute through a Hussein Elshahat strike into the bottom right corner from inside the box and midfielder Bandar al-Ahbabi added a close-range goal in the 60th minute.
Al Ain will play South American champion River Plate of Argentina in Tuesday’s semifinal. Kashima and Real Madrid will meet Wednesday.
“It’s a great pleasure to play the winners of the Copa Libertadores . . . we will try and make it difficult for River,” said Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic.
Esperance controlled possession for most of the game but struggled to take advantage, managing just one shot on target in 18 attempts.
Manager Mouine Chaabani said he was disappointed with his team’s performance, telling reporters they lost their focus after the first goal.
“All the players were thinking individually, not collectively,” he said.
Al Ain, which qualified as champion of the host nation and played in front of 21,333 spectators at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, piled on the pressure whenever it had the ball.
Al Ain’s Caio missed an opportunity to score in the 58th minute with a wayward shot from the left-hand side of the box but made amends moments later with an assist to Ahbabi, who struck the third goal.
“When the team is focused on the game like today the result is coming from this discipline, from this concentration . . . this focus. I’m very, very proud of my team,” Mamic said.
In rare scenes for a UAE soccer match, flares were briefly lit in a section of the stadium where Esperance fans were seated shortly after the Tunisian side went down 3-0.