The match failed to live up to the hype, as Gremio came out flat and barely put in an effort. Los Blancos dominated without creating too many chances, and a single free-kick from their star forward made the difference.
Here's a look at the teams:
Real Madrid C.F.🇬🇧 @realmadriden
📝🏃 #RMCWC Our starting line-up for the Club World Cup final against @Gremio! Let's do this! #HalaMadrid https://t.co/kXrMuVYWgg2017-12-16 15:37:45
Grêmio FBPA @Gremio
GRÊMIO ESCALADO PARA A FINAL DO #ClubWC! 🇪🇪🇦🇪💪🏽⚽️🏆 #NósVamoAcabáComOPlaneta https://t.co/vuCwh4Xy3g2017-12-16 16:07:44
Fans hoping for an action-packed, fast-paced start were left wanting on Saturday, as neither team put in much of an effort early. Highlights were few, and the most notable incident was a tackle from Geromel on Ronaldo that should have resulted in a card.
The Brazilian side were very aggressive, with a multitude of harsh challenges in the opening stages going unpunished. Real tried to counter those tactics with quick passing, and Luka Modric found Dani Carvajal, who fired the first chance over the bar.
Isco also went for goal, firing wide, and Modric suffered the same fate, as the Spanish pressure increased. On the other side of the pitch, Casemiro gave away a free-kick from a dangerous spot, but Edilson's dipping shot dropped too late.
Sportswriter Kiyan Sobhani noted Real were far more focused defensively against the Brazilians than in the semi-final:
Kiyan Sobhani @KiyanSo
vs Al Jazira: "Let's not defend. These guys aren't gonna hurt us on the counter lol" vs Gremio: "Let's not do that again"2017-12-16 17:22:07
Ronaldo wanted a penalty after some light contact inside the box, and he tried his luck with a free-kick shortly before half-time but missed the target.
At half-time, Selecao Brasileira highlighted one defender who was key to the score:
Seleção Brasileira @BrazilStat
#Grêmio 0x0 Real Madrid at half time. Pedro Geromel guiding the backline by example. All to play for in the second half. #ClubWC2017-12-16 17:46:58
Real continued to dominate possession after the break, and Ronaldo fired an ambitious shot wide early.
The Portuguese star broke the deadlock after 53 minutes, converting one of his typical free-kicks. Ronaldo drew the foul himself and blasted the ball through the wall, per AS English:
AS English @English_AS
See that hole in the wall? Ronaldo did. Real Madrid 1-0 Gremio.2017-12-16 18:11:22
Gremio were furious, as the goal came shortly after they had a good penalty appeal turned down, and they were still arguing when the counter that led to the free-kick took place.
Ronaldo thought he had doubled the lead just minutes later after Karim Benzema nodded the ball down for him, but the offside flag was raised, and the official declined his request to turn to VAR.
Casemiro's good low shot was turned out by Marcelo Grohe, and Modric hit the post with a hard drive, as Real pushed for a second goal. The pace of the contest soon dropped again, however, and manager Zinedine Zidane introduced Gareth Bale in the final 10 minutes.
Grohe made another good stop on Ronaldo to keep his team in the contest, but his team-mates barely tried to venture forward. Real easily defended their title and grabbed some momentum ahead of the Clasico against Barcelona on Saturday.