Gareth Bale's hat-trick helped Club World Cup reigning champions Real Madrid easily overcome Kashima Antlers in Abu Dhabi, as they booked their place in Saturday's final.
The Japanese side, who qualified for the tournament as Asian Champions League winners, immediately showed their intent with Brazilian forward Serginho forcing a fine low save from Thibaut Courtois in the third minute. However, despite Real Madrid not being at their glittering best in the first half, they got the opener in fine style.
Gareth Bale picked the ball up on the left flank before feeding Marcelo, who produced a wonderful flick to play the Welshman back in. Bale then finished low across the goal and off Kwoun Sun-tae's left post to give Madrid the lead just before half time.
The former Tottenham star became the only third player to score in three different Club World Cup tournaments after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
After the break, Madrid's lead was soon doubled in the most calamitous of ways. An attempted pass back was seized upon by Bale and Shuto Yamamoto's poor clearance beat his own goalkeeper and presented the forward with an open net to easily tap into.
A hat-trick for Bale followed only two minutes later as he thundered an unstoppable strike into the far corner, following another Marcelo assist
Kashima Antlers grabbed a consolation goal through Shoma Doi, following VAR review, but Madrid held on to set up a tie with hosts Al Ain as they bid to win a record-breaking fourth Club World Cup title.
Here's our breakdown of this one.
Key Talking Point
Look no further than the display of Gareth Bale as his hat-trick set up Real Madrid to beat another record and win their third consecutive Club World Cup title and fourth in total.
The Welshman's goals meant Santiago Solari's side book a final place against UAE's Al Ain and go into the match as firm favourites for the trophy.
Since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale had been touted as the man to step into the void filled by the Portuguese's move to Juventus.
If he is to produce this kind of form into both La Liga and the Champions League then there is no doubting that he can become the main man for Madrid.
"No commitment", "hasn't adapted", "always injured", "doesn't speak Spanish", etc, etc. There's Gareth Bale with a hat-trick in a big game and he has 98 goals now for Real Madrid. Respect.— Ben Hayward (@bghayward) December 19, 2018
How is it that whenever a semi or a final pops up, Bale is always there playing like his old prime Tottenham self? Guy is unstoppable when it really really matters.— Xav Salazar (@XavsFutbol) December 19, 2018
Starting XI: Courtois (7); Marcelo (7), Ramos (6), Varane (7), Carvajal (6), Modric (7), Llorente (6), Kroos (7), Bale (9*), Benzema (7), Vazquez (6)
Substitutes: Asensio (4), Isco (7), Casemiro (6)
STAR MAN - Gareth Bale
The Welshman was a threat down the left-hand side throughout the match until he was substituted on the hour mark.
He showcased an array of finishing ability, his first a neat low drive with the inside of his left foot before repeating the same for his second goal with his right. The third goal was a thumping effort with his favoured left foot which left Kwoun Sun-tae with no chance.
He was an injury doubt before the match but showed no signs of weariness with an excellent all-round display.
We should play the CWC anthem for Bale before every La Liga match— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) December 19, 2018
FT Madrid 3-1 Kashima Antlers. Bale's really well taken hat-trick more than enough as Madrid stroll past Kashima team who had their chances at 0-0, but were quite easily taken apart in the end.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) December 19, 2018
WORST PLAYER - Marco Asensio
Seems unfair to choose a player who only played 14 minutes, however, after coming on as a substitute for Gareth Bale the Spaniard picked up a knock and was forced off in place of Casemiro.
Real Madrid now turn their attentions towards Saturday's final against surprise opposition Al Ain, who only qualified as hosts but have knocked out River Plate and Team Wellington.
Obviously, Los Blancos go into the game as overwhelming favourites as they look to claim a record-breaking fourth Club World Cup title.
Following Saturday's final, Madrid enjoy a winter break with their next game not until the 3 January next year when they travel to 17th placed Villarreal.