Bayern Munich capped a historic year by adding global success to their domestic and European crowns by way of a 2-0 victory over Raja Casablanca to take the FIFA Club World Cup title in Marrakech. Goals from Dante and Thiago secured what was a comfortable win over the local favorites and surprise package of the competition.
Raja had prevented the expected contest between South American and European champions by shocking Copa Libertadores winners Atletico Mineiro in the semifinals. But this fourth game in the competition for them was always going to prove a step too far. Bayern expectedly dominated possession and coach Pep Guardiola will likely have some disappointment that his side were not more ruthless.
For Raja, just playing in such illustrious surroundings in front of their home fans is a major triumph after they came into the competition in disarray, having just removed their coach and languishing in mid-table in the Moroccan League. And after conceding twice early on, the predicted slaughter looked a distinct possibility. Instead, they did well to avoid further punishment, although Bayern eased off considerably in the second half. Such was the Bayern’s level of cruise control that Raja might even have got on themselves a famous goal.
Heading into the match as massive underdogs, Raja will have been looking to keep things tight for as long as possible. But within seven minutes their plans were undone. A corner from the right was headed back into the danger zone by Jerome Boateng from the edge of the box and the local side botched their offside trap by running out too late to leave Dante all alone to control, turn and fire into the net form eight yards out.
Bayern could have doubled their lead even quicker than they did, with Thomas Muller and David Alaba having efforts saved by the increasingly occupied Khalid Askri in the Raja goal. When the goal did come in the 22nd minute, it arrived when Raja were actually stringing some passes together and posing the most fleeting of threats, chiefly though the man with two goals already to his name in the competition, Mouhssine Iajour.
Unperturbed, Bayern just stepped their foot back on the gas. Thiago played in Alaba down the left of the box then waited as the Austrian full-back laid it back to him on the edge of the area at the second attempt and he finished with a precise finish into the far corner.
The score-line could have been more emphatic at the break, with Dante heading over, Xherdan Shaqiri seeing a shot well saved and Thiago firing off target. Yet Raja could also have found themselves with a goal in the most charitable of circumstances. To the fury of Guardiola on the sidelines, Manuel Neuer gifted a clearance straight to Chemseddine Chtibi and could only watch on as the midfielder’s snap-shot went just wide of the vacant goal.
Bayern missed a glorious chance to make it 3-0 after the break. Shaqiri looked certain to score as a low cross across the six-yard box reached him unmarked but he fired against the crossbar. Increasingly, Guardiola’s side eased off their intensity and stopped looking for the incisive passes. Raja were unable to construct any concerted pressure but they came close on more than one occasion to getting a goal that might have forced a reawakening of last season’s Champions League winners.
Iajour should have done better with a header that went straight at Neuer, but the best opportunity came when Bayern’s goalkeeper was forced to pull off a good save from Vivien Madibe’s shot before Mohshine Moutaouali wastefully struck over the bar from the rebound.
Still Bayern always maintained an element of control and after claiming their fifth title of the year, few would bet against them coming close to matching that figure in 2014.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.