PASADENA CA - AUGUST 07: Cristiano Ronaldo #7 of Real Madrid during the pre-season friendly soccer match against Los Angeles Galaxy on August 7 2010 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena California. Real Madrid will travel back to Spain after the soccer match completing their pre-season USA tour. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
A hat trick in nine second-half minutes from Cristiano Ronaldo made the difference for Real Madrid on Wednesday in their World Football Challenge match against Club Deportivo Guadalajara in San Diego. The game was close throughout the first half, but Real Madrid’s class overcame the rojiblanco as the game continued. Still, given that it was their final tune-up before starting their season on Saturday against Atlante, Chivas can take some pride in their performance for the first seventy minutes.
Both teams played creditable first teams in the first half, as Chivas was missing only Cubo Torres as he was off the tour preparing for the U-20 World Cup in Colombia, and Real Madrid featured Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Ricardo Carvalho, and Marcelo from the start. Kaka and Karim Benzema also started, and Benzema in particular looked dangerous during his shift. It will be interesting to see how those two players will feature in Jose Mourinho’s plans this season, considering their difficulties as Real Madrid players in the past.
In the first half, the teams came out pretty evenly matched. Real Madrid controlled possession for most of the half, but Chivas had segments where it was able to connect passes and go for goal. The best chance for Real Madrid came in the 37th minute, when Esteban Granero took a free kick about 40 yards out, and Cristiano Ronaldo headed it in the box, but Chivas keeper Luis Michel got a fingertip on it and pushed it just wide of the goal. For Chivas, Marco Fabian scored in the 14th minute, but the goal was called back as he was offside. Both teams were not afraid to really go for tackles, as Omar Arellano, Edgar Mejia for Chivas and Fabio Coentrao for Real Madrid got yellow cards in the first half.
The second half was all Madrid, especially from the 73rd minute, as Cristiano Ronaldo got his hat trick. He scored the first in the 73rd on a close-range goal off an excellent cross from Benzema. Three minutes later, Pepe was brought down in the box by Omar Arellano and a penalty was awarded to Real Madrid. Ronaldo stepped up to take it, and scored. In the stadium there was initially some confusion as the ball rolled through the net, but it was indeed a goal. He followed that up with a goal in the 82nd minute with a shot off a centering pass from Mesut Ozil in the box that wrong-footed Michel. Overall, it was an impressive performance from Ronaldo, and he really seemed to take control of the game and put it out of Chivas’ reach in the second half. I do think Luis Michel was unfortunate to end up conceding three goals, but he looked good for the rest of the game, and looks set to be in fine form for the beginning of the FMF season.
The atmosphere in Qualcomm was decent, considering the stadium was about half full. The crowd seemed to be split between the two clubs, and horns were blared the entire match. The loudest cheers went to Ronaldo and Kaka, but Chivas had a supporters section in the upper deck that threw streamers down to field level, set off flares, and were active all game. I thought it was striking that the group was sitting in the upper deck, as there was a great deal of seats available in the lower deck, but I’m guessing the high ticket prices kept them away from the field level, and probably kept some interested fans at home as well. World Football Challenge organizers will have to weigh the high ticket prices in future years if they really want to see sellout crowds around the country.