Real Madrid were expected to win the Club World Cup again this year; but they weren’t expected to cut it so close. After a 2-0 semifinal win over CONCACAF champions Club America, where Luka Modrić was awarded Man of the Match honors, Real Madrid faced the Kashima Antlers in the final Sunday night in Yokohama, Japan. The Antlers were the cinderella team of this tournament as they were given a wild card into the tournament as hosts; winners of the previous season’s Japanese J1 league.
Real Madrid would get on the board quick as Karim Benzema tapped in a poorly parried shot from the Japanese keeper in the ninth minute after Modrić sent a low shot from outside the box onto frame. But Kashima would score twice to take a 2-1 lead midway through the second half. However, with all the firepower that Madrid had, a penalty was called in the 60th minute and Ronaldo would convert to make it 2-2 and force extra time. Ronaldo would add two more in the extra session to complete his hat trick and earn Real Madrid a 4-2 win, crowning them Club World champions for the second time in three years.
Modrić played another exceptional game finally being taken off in the 106th minute for Mateo Kovačić. Modric was named Silver Ball winner of the tournament; which was the second best player, only behind Ronaldo who netted four goals in two matches.
Modrić shot leads to Real Madrid goal
Šime Vrsaljko got a rare start for Atletico Madrid as they shut out Las Palmas 1-0 on Saturday. It’s good to see Vrsaljko playing 90 minutes in a clean sheet effort for Atletico as they currently sit in sixth place in La Liga. Ivan Rakitić was given the day off on the bench Sunday as Barcelona cruised by Espanyol with a 4-1 win. Barca close to the gap between them and idol Real Madrid to only three points. Duje Čop played the full 90 minutes for Sporting Gijon in a 3-1 losing effort to Villareal on Saturday. Čop has cooled off since scoring a few goals earlier in the season.
Juventus faced Roma on Saturday night, the giallorossi having collected the most points in the last 10 matches but it did not help them to snap up any points in Turin. The bianconeri sent Spalletti’s troop back south with reduced title hopes following a neath 1-0 victory on Saturday night.
Despite Dybala showing great form during the previous week Mario Mandžukić was selected in the starting line up again. Hard to criticize Allegri for his selctions as the former Munich star played anywhere the circumstances demanded. Not rarely he could be seen covering up the right full back spot after Cuadrado came on in the second half. The Croatian international also served two assists to Sturaro that were vanished and offered another good chance to his fellow Argentinian partner in the first half. His superb commitment turned tactically pivotal as allowed Higuain to concentrate on his best skill: scoring, which is what won the match.
Marko Pjaca received his first call up after more than 2 months, having last featured in Serie A @ Empoli on the 2nd of October. The former Dinamo star despite being rumored to return in the ranks in January turned to be ahead of schedule and managed to watch his teammates from the bench.
La Gazzetta dello Sport Ratings: Mario Mandžukić 7: “The more he plays the clearer is why Allegri can’t do without. He is the ideal striker for all of those managers (almost all of them) who ask their forwards to try hard to recover the ball. His form is currently impressive.”
With 3 more points under the belt following a 1-0 away win on Saturday, Inter overcame Fiorentina and can now start targeting an European spot. Marcelo Brozović and Ivan Perišić both featured in the starting line up and went the distance. Marcelo looked less reliable and consistent than in recent occasions in the midfield but managed to participate in creating the best chances for the nerazzurri. The former Dinamo star tried to score his 4th in the league with shots from the outside at least 3 times but once he realized that it was not the right day, he focused on assisting Perišić.
Ivan Perišić looked completely outside of the match. Be it on the right or in the left he did not manage to have the best of his opponent defender and his ball control was below his usual standards. In spite of that he had one good chance in the first half and two clear ones in the second which he squandered. Probably his worst performance since he came to Italy.
La Gazzetta dello Sport Ratings: Marcelo Brozović 6,5 “His goal streak stops (4 goals in the last 4 matches). He hardly ever stops: a lot of team work.”
Ivan Perišić 4,5 wootm “Gives the feeling of an unexpressed products, sometimes to the point of negligence. Misses 3 open goal opportunities.”
Palermo surprisingly got their second win in the season @ Genoa on Sunday night. The rosanero turned the match around and went on to win 4-3 having been down 3-1. By looking at the score it would be easy to think that Josip Posavec did not shine, however the former Inter goalkeeper must be given credit for keeping the team in the match with two saves on Ninković, one of which was nothing short than outstanding. Not at fault on the 3 conceded goals, he showed some weaknesses on crosses.
La Gazzetta dello Sport Ratings: Josip Posavec 7 “best of the team concedes 3, but saves at least 2. If Palermo managed to win this one, he must be given big credit.”
Udinese are finally sitting mid table following to their 2-0 win over Crotone. Andrija Balić and Stipe Perica both looked on from the bench in the win.
Sampdoria came home with no points following their 2-1 defeat in Verona to Chievo. Ante Budimir watched the match from the bench. Patrik Schick is blooming and the former Crotone striker has definitely fallen down in the peaking order and seen his minutes reduced.
Napoli lie 3rd following to a thrilling 5-3 over Mihajlović’s Torino on Sunday. Marko Rog and Ivan Strinić both featured as unused substitutes. Milan did not manage to have the best out of Atalanta in San Siro and had to settle for an uninspiring 0-0 on Saturday.
After a positive performance in Roma Mario Pašalić retained his place in the starting line up and went the distance. The former Chelsea midfielder looked shy and sometimes uninterested. Playing 3 full matches in such a short amount of time after being out for months must have surely affected his performance. The real impression he gives is that even if physically strong, technically gifted and tactically interesting, he is lacking pace to make a name for himself at a certain level.
La Gazzetta dello Sport Ratings: Mario Pašalić 5,5 “Did not manage to repeat his good display vs Roma. Never stepped in the match.”
Fiorentina continue their apathetic season and lie now in the 8th position after losing away to Lazio 3-1. Nikola Kalinić was a starter for la viola and went the distance. After some positive performances, the former Hajduk star lost his personal duel with De Vrij. Kalinić disappeared completely in the first half and did not improve much in the second. Left alone upfront, his support to the team was strangely non existent.
Hrvoje Milić was given a rest and looked on from the bench. Milan Badelj missed the match for suspension.
La Gazzetta dello Sport Ratings: Nikola Kalinić 5,5 “Not much assisted, he doesn’t do anything to change the situation.”
RB Salzburg easily took care of Wolfsberger AC (3-0). For the second time in a row central defender Duje Caleta-Car remained on the bench as an unused sub. Josip Radošević started for Salzburg and was subbed out after 76 minutes when it was already 3-0. Josip created the first danger for RB Salzburg. Salzburg are now second in the Austrian league with one point behind Altach. Radosevic is 22, maybe he still could turn into a great defensive midfielder.
Ivan Mocinic missed the game for Rapid Vienna in Altach due a yellow-card suspension. Rapid lost 3-1 is now fifth with already 15 points behind leader Altach. Austria Vienna beat Mattersburg (2-0). Central defender Petar Filipovic played the entire game for Austria who are fourth now. Filipovic even scored the 2-0.
Antonio Milic played the entire game for KV Oostende against number 2 in Belgium Zulte Waregem. The game ended 1-1. Antonio had to play as central defender while he normally plays LB. With this draw, Kv Oostende remains in the top six who will play the playoffs in March and April.
Mario Ticinovic and his team Lokeren-Waasland grabbed an important victory against Westerlo (1-3) and slowly climb to the middle of the league. Mario was subbed out after 70 minutes.
Matej Delac plays for probably the worst team in Belgium, Mouscron. He was between the pipes against Charleroi and they lost again (2-0). Matej was not at fault for both goals and did pretty well. Tuesday they will play against Westerlo, the team which they will have to fight to stay in the Belgian first league.
Coach Ivan Leko surprised everybody with the win against top team AA Gent (3-1). Three weeks ago, people thought his team Sint-Truiden would have trouble to stay in the first league. After three victories in a row, Sint-Truiden VV looks to be safe already. With this win, Ivan becomes even more popular in Sint-Truiden.
After the match the AA Gent coach told the press that they’re very interested in Lovre Kalinic from Hajduk Split. They already made an offer of about 2,5 million Euros but Hajduk declined it. Lovre Kalinic has a contract until 2019 at Hajduk. Also Anderlecht is apparently interested in Kalinic. AA Gent and Anderlecht are among the best teams in Belgium. AA Gent announced that they will make a new offer.
Slaven Bilic and his West Ham beat Hull City (1-0). With this victory they manage to take 7 points in one week. West Ham is now 13th in the Premier League. West Ham played very poorly and Slaven admitted they rode their luck in beating Hull City. On Monday Liverpool with Dejan Lovren will face Everton in the Merseyside derby.
What’s going on with Alen Halilovic and Josip Brekalo? Alen Halilovic wasn’t included in the squad for Hamburg in their game against Mainz (3-1 loss). First Alen was left three times out of the roster in a row, then there was a knee injury. Monday Alen was fit again and hoping for a new chance against this weekend but coach Gisdol didn’t even put him on the bench. It looks like Alen will leave Hamburg in January. He only played 139 minutes for Hamburg so far.
Josip Brekalo has a hard time at Wolfsburg since the new coach took over. While he made some minutes on the pitch with the first coach, the new coach send him to the Wolfsburg U23 team.
Niko Kovac and his Eintracht Frankfurt didn’t manage to continue their positive results as they fell in Wolfsburg (1-0). Wolfsburg was the better team but Frankfurt missed a penalty. Ante Rebic started for Frankfurt, picked up a yellow card and was subbed out after 76 minutes. It looks like Ante is finally bouncing back after some terrible years. The guy is only 23 so maybe he’ll sill play for the Vatreni one day. Eintracht Frankfurt is now 6th in the table.
I’ve watched the Hoffenheim-Dortmund game. For the first time this season, Andrej Kramaric didn’t start for Hoffenheim. I guess we could see it coming. In the beginning he played entire games but in the last games he was always subbed out in the last 20 or 30 minutes. And things started bad for him Friday. His replacement Uth opened the score for Hoffenheim. Andrej entered the pitch for Uth in the 58th minute when it was 2-2 but Dortmund with one man down. Andrej tried to impress. There was a great assists for the 3-2 but Jeremy Toljan missed the opportunity. Andrey got a big chance himself in the 85th minute but didn’t place the ball well enough. Andrej played very decent. It would have said great if he would have scored. Hoffenheim is now fourth in the German League.
Darmstadt hosted Bayern Munchen. Antonio Colak was subbed in after 78 minutes after Munich scored the 0-1 to bring Darmstadt back. Antonio couldn’t make the difference so Darmstadt lost again. It will be extremely difficult for Darmstadt to remain in the Bundesliga next season.
Tin Jedvaj started the game for Leverkusen against Ingolstadt (1-2 loss) He picked up a yellow card and was subbed out after 82 minutes. Tin was not at fault for both goals. Leverkusen fans were extremely disappointed after this loss. They had to play 45 minutes with one man down. Leverkusen is now 9th in the Bundesliga.
Marin Leovac and his PAOK cruised past Kerkya (0-5) in Greece. Marin played well as LB and was subbed out after 62 minutes. Leovac should be considered as a possible LB in the future. PAOK are now 6the in the Greek table.
Ivan Santini did it again as his team AS Caen beat Metz with 3-0. He scored the second goal and was subbed out with a standing ovation after 81 minutes. Ivan scored his eight goal already for his team which are now 16th in the French league.
Monaco-Olympique Lyon was the most important game in Frace. Subasic was between the pipes for AS Monaco who could come at one point of leader Nice and six points ahead from PSG. Monaco didn’t start wel and Subasic was forced to make a great save. Lyon made 0-1 after all with a kick just outside the box. To make things worse, Mendy (AS Monaco) took a stupid red card after 40 minutes. Subasic made a couple of very decent safes in the second half and even stopped a penalty. Finally they lost 1-3. He should have done better with the last goal.
Nenad Bjelica’s Lech Poznan visited Cracovia. The game ended in a 1-1. The team of coach Bjelica is now 5th in the Polish league.
A name to remember: Filip Krovinovic. He’s only 21, an U21 international and he’s already the playmaker from Rio Ave in the Portugese League. Rio Ave beat Nacional (2-1). Filip played the entire game and even scored the second goal for Rio Ave, a real beauty. Rio Ave is 6th in the Portugese League.
Jozo Simunovic played the entire game for Celtic Glasgow against Dundee (2-1). Celtic dominates the Scottish league. They’re eleven points ahead of number two. Jozo played very decent again. Torino would like to buy him (and Domogaj Vida) in January. They already tested him in August but he failed the medical tests. Celtic coach Kennedy refuses to let him go: “He’s a big player for us now and he’s shown that in the last couple of Champions League games. He’s a op player and we want to keep our best players. He’s got the height, the strength, the speed and technically he’s very good. On top of that, he’s got a fantastic attitude. Nowadays proper centre-backs are very hard to come by.”
Schalke 04 at Hamburger SV, Mainz 05 at Frankfurt, Guijuelo at Atlético Madrid(Copa del Rey),
Caen at Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen at Köln, Werder Bremen at Hoffenheim, Lazio at Inter, Hércules at Barcelona(Copa del Rey),
Pescara at Palermo, Udinese at Sampdoria,
Milan at Juventus(Super Cup),
Stoke City at Liverpool
~Ante Kvartuč reporting from sunny Southern California, Mark Gasperčić reporting from Belgium, and Salvatore Cagnazzi reporting from Italy