Rafael Benitez’s first match in charge of Real Madrid ended in defeat as Roma triumped 7-6 on penalties in the International Champions Cup at the MCG on Saturday.
After a goalless 90 minutes, the Serie A side came out on top in the shoot-out thanks to goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis and midfielder Seydou Keita.
De Sanctis saved Lucas Vasquez’s spot-kick and Keita stepped up to convert the following effort.
Benitez named a strong starting XI, with the Spaniard handing the captain’s armband to Manchester United target Sergio Ramos, while Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Raphael Varane and Marcelo were all selected.
There was also a spot for 16-year-old Norwegian prodigy Martin Odegaard.
Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi, Gervinho, Radja Nainggolan and Ashley Cole were included by Roma boss Rudi Garcia.
Roma settled well and came close to breaking the deadlock after just four minutes.
De Rossi rattled the crossbar from inside the six-yard box and his shot sparked a goalmouth scramble as Totti’s follow-up effort was cleared off the line by Marcelo.
Real slowly worked their way into the match, with Ramos creating some space at the back post before firing over the bar.
Bale – the liveliest of Real’s front three during the first half – picked out Ronaldo inside the penalty area but Cole dispossessed the latter just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Keylor Navas was kept busy approaching the half-hour mark, forced into a save from distance by Totti, who was withdrawn soon after, while the Real goalkeeper also produced a fingertip save to keep out Salih Ucan.
As expected, both sides made a host of half-time changes, with the likes of Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Isco, Miralem Pjanic, Adem Ljajic and Juan Iturbe introduced.
And it had a detrimental impact on the spectacle, though Bale and Seydou Doumbia both had opportunities to break the deadlock early in the second half.
Bale came within a whisker of scoring after his header flashed wide of the post in the 53rd minute, while Doumbia hit the side netting just after.
With extra time looming, Real stepped it up a gear.
After having their penalty shouts for a handball waved away by referee Mark Clattenburg, Benzema played a first-time pass to second-half substitute Vasquez but De Sanctis came to Roma’s rescue.
That proved the last piece of action before the shoot-out, which saw Roma convert all seven of their penalties.
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Speaking at a press conference before his team’s International Champions Cup match against Roma on Saturday, Benitez was asked by Goal if the 25-year-old Wales international, five years Ronaldo’s junior, could soon become the more prominent member of the Madrid attack.
“You can ask my daughter if she prefers my wife or me. The father or the mother. It’s not easy,” he said.
“Ronaldo, Bale, all of them – they are so good. For me it’s not a problem. James (Rodriguez), Isco, (Karim) Benzema, Ronaldo or Bale, we have an option with all of them.
“Ronaldo is a key player for us, Gareth will be a key player for us. But the same will be Benzema, James, Isco, (Toni) Kroos, (Luka) Modric. We have a fantastic team. We have to keep improving the squad, keep working hard with the players that we have.”
Benitez, a former Real Madrid ‘B’ player and coach, has won La Liga with Valencia and captured the UEFA Champions League at Liverpool, but now faces undeniably the biggest role of his career.
The 55-year-old knows he will face intense scrutiny in the hot seat at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, but believes focusing on the task at hand – and his inside knowledge of the club – will enable him to succeed where others have failed.
“If you analyse what I have to do every day, it’s more or less the same,” he said.
“It’s a football team and you have to train, to coach, prepare the training sessions and (for) the game. So it’s more or less the same.
“Obviously you have more media, more people around watching you. For me it doesn’t change too much. I have to concentrate on my job and try to do my best in the things that I know. Coaching the team and trying to have a winning mentality.
“(I do) have an advantage. I know the city, I know the fans, I know the club. So that is an advantage.”
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The three-time Hyundai A-League champions host the Premier League giants in front of over 50,000 fans, with Adelaide United next in line to tackle the Merseyside outfit at the Adelaide Oval on Monday night in front of a similar gallery.
The Roar’s focus is firmly on their meeting with Brendan Rodgers’ men this week, but the visit of the Reds isn’t the only big attraction.
Real Madrid, Manchester City and Roma are set to draw huge crowds when they contest the International Champions Cup at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
And while some observers have questioned the merits of state governments paying sizeable appearance fees to lure heavyweight football clubs Down Under, former Socceroo Aloisi has no such doubts.
“It’s so good for our game,” the former La Liga striker told Goal Australia.
“At the end of last season we had Chelsea, Tottenham [Hotspur] and Villarreal come out and play.
“And now pre-season is at another level altogether because teams are really preparing for the year [ahead]. To have the likes of Real Madrid come out here, Liverpool, Man City and Roma – it just shows where we’re headed. To get the public to see what football at the highest level is all about.
“To have someone like Cristiano Ronaldo on our shores is something special.”
Liverpool began their tour of Asia and Australia with a 4-0 win over a Thai Premier League All Stars XI in Bangkok on Tuesday.
Rodgers will have been happy to see his players cruise to victory, given the start of the new Premier League campaign is just a month away.
Season 11 of the Hyundai A-League though isn’t due to kick-off until October and that means the Roar, who only began pre-season training two weeks ago, could have a tough time keeping up with their big-name opponents.
“The boys have worked hard, especially the first 10 days,” Aloisi said.
“We’ve tried to taper off a bit so they’re not too heavy [legged]. They’re still going to be heavy and not 100 percent for the Liverpool game, but we’ve tried to make it so they get both fitness and our way of playing, our patterns in place.
“That works hand in hand anyway, because most of our sessions are with the ball.”
Brisbane will miss the experience of club captain Matt Mckay, who made a delayed start to pre-season after being granted an extended break following his Asian Cup-winning exploits with Australia.
“He needed a break physically and mentally after the long season that he had,” the head coach said.
“That gives an opportunity for some other midfielders.”
International marquee Thomas Broich will be fit to face Liverpool, although goalkeeper Michael Theo and centre-back Luke DeVere have also been ruled out.
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Former Madrid striker Álvaro Morata returned to the Santiago Bernabéu to end the holders’ challenge and take Juve into their first final since 2003.
Morata takes Juve through at Madrid’s expense
Álvaro Morata is mobbed after scoring Juventus’ decisive goal
Álvaro Morata returned to the Santiago Bernabéu to score the goal that took Juventus into a first final since 2003 and ended Real Madrid CF’s hopes of becoming the first side to defend the trophy in the UEFA Champions League era.
Facing a semi-final first-leg deficit, Madrid were on the front foot from the outset and were rewarded midway through the first half as James Rodríguez won a penalty that Cristiano Ronaldo slotted in. However, Juve responded strongly after half-time and ex-Madrid forward Morata fired them level shortly before the hour. Thereafter some determined defending ensured the Italian champions reached their eighth European Cup final, and first since 2003.
Beaten 2-1 in Turin, Madrid – who had been pressed back from the first whistle last week – seized the initiative from the off with Gareth Bale heading narrowly over within the first 40 seconds. Karim Benzema – making his first appearance in a month following a knee injury – showed good control to create space for a shot, only to blaze over before Ronaldo’s deflected free-kick landed on the top of the net.
Although Arturo Vidal’s low effort forced a sprawling Iker Casillas into action for the first time, the main threat continued to come from Carlo Ancelotti’s team, Benzema springing the offside trap. His cross was scrambled clear before Gianluigi Buffon pushed away Bale’s dipping 25m attempt.
With 22 minutes on the clock, the Bianconeri cracked as Giorgio Chiellini was adjudged to have fouled James. Ronaldo had missed a penalty in Saturday’s Liga draw against Valencia CF but held his nerve from the spot this time, clipping the ball over the diving Buffon.
The visiting No1 twice foiled Benzema before the break to keep Massimiliano Allegri’s side in contention, first saving a header before blocking a low strike at the near post. Ronaldo also went close, outpacing the defence but ruffling only the side netting.
Claudio Marchisio and Marcelo both sent shots whistling wide in the early stages of the second period, although now it was Juventus looking to show greater attacking intent. That was borne out as Madrid failed to clear Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick and Paul Pogba’s powerful leap knocked the ball on to Morata, who rifled beyond Casillas.
The onus was immediately back on Madrid and a slick passing move involving James and Marcelo unlocked the away defence; under pressure, Bale volleyed wide. Juve, however, were holding firm and they might have put the tie beyond Madrid as Vidal slipped a pass through to Marchisio; Casillas came to Madrid’s rescue.
James drove centimetres over Buffon’s crossbar before Bale rose to meet Ronaldo’s centre at the far post; again his aim was fractionally too high. Juventus, though, defended with discipline and determination and carried an incisive threat on the counterattack. They passed up another golden opportunity with two minutes left as Fernando Llorente found Pogba inside the box. Casillas palmed the effort away, but Madrid were not spared for long.
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Carlos Tévez settled the first leg in the Italian champions’ favour after Cristiano Ronaldo had cancelled out Álvaro Morata’s early tap-in.
Carlos Tévez’s penalty gave Juventus the edge in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid CF after a gripping contest in Turin.
A vibrant start from the home side brought early reward as Álvaro Morata struck against the club he left last summer, but Madrid responded swiftly and levelled before the half-hour with Cristiano Ronaldo’s ninth goal in this season’s UEFA Champions League and 76th overall. Juve, however, regained the initiative through Tévez’s spot kick early in the second half, earning them a slender but valuable lead to take to Spain next week.
Juventus, in their first semi-final since beating Madrid in 2002/03, began at pace and were in front before ten minutes had been played. Stefano Sturaro – making his first UEFA Champions League start – and Morata had already tested Iker Casillas before Claudio Marchisio played a pass into Tévez down the right channel. The Argentinian’s low shot was only pushed out by Casillas and Morata could not miss.
Madrid’s riposte was swift, Toni Kroos calling Gianluigi Buffon into action for the first time before Isco’s pass offered Ronaldo the chance to stretch his legs; the shot was dragged across the face of goal. The next opportunity came Juve’s way, as Stephan Lichtsteiner got the better of Marcelo down the right and advanced into the penalty area, but his hurried effort was slashed wide.
Three minutes later, the full impact of that miss was felt as Madrid equalised with a fine goal. With the ball bouncing into the home penalty box, James Rodríguez lifted a volleyed cross in for Ronaldo to nod past Buffon from close range.
The momentum had shifted and it was Madrid who should have scored the third goal of a thrilling first half. A slick passing move worked the ball from right to left, Isco breaking clear and centring for James. From two metres out and with the goal beckoning, the Colombian somehow headed against the crossbar; Marcelo’s follow-up landed on the top of the net.
Although the second period began at a more considered pace than the first, it burst into life in the 56th minute as Juve counterattacked at speed. Morata slipped in a pass to Tévez, who burst into the area only to be felled by Dani Carvajal. The Argentinian picked himself up to slot the penalty past Casillas.
Madrid were unable to muster a second equaliser as Juventus preserved their one-goal cushion with some degree of comfort. Indeed, it was the newly-crowned Italian champions who came closest to another goal, first as Raphaël Varane failed to cut out a long ball and substitute Fernando Llorente rounded Casillas; Carvajal was there to pip Roberto Pereyra to his fellow replacement’s cross.
Llorente passed up an even better opening in added time having been picked out in space by Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick. His weak header was blocked by the goalkeeper, leaving the tie finely balanced.
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