Monday, July 20, 2009

Benzema and Ronaldo Make Their Debut As Real Madrid Beat Shamrock Rovers 1-0

Shamrock Rovers came within two minutes of a historic result in Tallaght tonight, as debutant Karim Benzema's 88th-minute goal gave visiting Real Madrid the victory their play so scarcely deserved.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who played from the start, struggled to make any impact on the game as the £80 million man came in for close attention from the Rovers defenders. Some of the tackles in this "friendly" may have left Pellegrini worried about his star man, and he was later withdrawn at half time.

All eyes were on the Portuguese to perform, and when Madrid won a free kick within his range the entire crowd drew a hushed breath, only for Ronaldo to send the resulting free kick around 20 yards wide.

With Shamrock Rovers riding high in the League of Ireland, manager Michael O'Neill took the chance to rest some of his key players. The league's top scorer, Garry Twigg, was left on the bench with a couple of other regulars as The Hoops took the game to Madrid.

The best chance of the first half fell to Sean O'Connor, who beat his man when cutting in from the right before he fired a rasping shot just wide of Dudek's post.

Gago was patrolling midfield like a player who knows his position is under threat, and he put in a couple of crunching tackles that might have drawn red cards, had the game been a serious one.

The second half was an open affair with both sides going close to opening the scoring. Karim Benzema, who came on for the lacklustre Ronaldo, looked every inch the £40 million that Madrid paid for him.

His first touch was exquisite, and on more than one occasion did he leave his part time opponents bamboozled.

Both teams used the match as a training exercise, and the lucky 11,000 who packed into the Tallaght stadium got their monies worth. And with the vast majority of the home crowd cheering every Rovers touch, the home side pushed Madrid hard.

The two teams exchanged chances as the excellent Van der Vaart's overhead kick was just saved by Robert Duggan, and at the other end, Tadhg Purcell had a headed effort cleared off the line after he lost his marker from a Rover's corner.

As the game moved toward its end, and as Rovers began to tire, gaps began to open up through the rear gard that had played so well throughout the match.

Benzema exploited such a gap as he raced through on goal and finished easily to give Madrid the win and to bring an end to a hugely successful pre-season training camp in Ireland.

With Platinum One and Carton House, now both regarded as leaders in their fields in Europe, it would seem that this might not be the end of seeing teams like Real Madrid playing in Tallaght.

And on this evidence, Rovers came out of the game with huge credit.

But the game moves on, and with this friendly already a memory, one can look forward to Bohemian's taking on Red Bull Salzburg in the 2nd Round of the Champions League on Wednesday. The tie is poised at 1-1, and Bohs know their future is in their own hands.

Shamrock Rovers: Murphy (Duggan HT), Flynn (Treacy HT), Maguire (Madden 88), Sives (Price HT), Bermingham (Cahill HT), Robinson (McGill), Rice, Jurco (Purcell HT), O'Connor (Twigg), Amond (Baker), Gal-Andrezly (Bradley HT).

Substitutes Not Used: Coleman.

Real Madrid: Dudek, Torres (Salgado HT), Pepe (Garay HT), Metzelder (Heinze HT), Marcello (Drenthe HT), Ronaldo (Sneijder HT), L Diarra (Tebas Ramiro), Gago (Van Der Vaart HT), Guti (Parejo HT), Higuain (Negredo HT), Raul (Benzema HT).

Substitutes Not Used: Adan Garrido, Velayos, Garcia.

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