By Alex Baker,
Pasadena, CA – The Galaxy went down to the Galacticos, 3-2 in front of an 89,000 plus crowd at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena Saturday night. Two goals in six minutes gave the home side a 2-0 first half lead. However in the second half Real Madrid’s star-studded attack force proved too much for the MLS league leaders, with the visitors netting three goals to eventually win it 3-2.
Clad in their classic white kits and passing crisply, Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid looked threatening from the outset. However it would be the home side who had the first opportunity of the match, in the 2nd minute when Edson Buddle found space and shot from just outside the eighteen, forcing a save from keeper, Jerzy Dudek. Los Blancos first goal scoring opportunity came five minutes later when Esteban Granero broke down the left and fired a cross in for Benzema who headed the ball on target, eliciting a comfortable save from Donovan Rickets. A defensive error gave Buddle another chance in the 11th minute. The USA striker turned and fired a shot straight through three Real Madrid defenders, forcing a diving save from Dudek. Midway through the first half, Angel Di Maria nearly gave Real the lead, breaking down the right and firing an angled shot on goal that again forced Rickets into action. Meanwhile Karim Benzema continued to loiter with intent, tracking the ball and looking very menacing on the right side. Galaxy’s breakthrough came in the 40th minute when they were awarded a corner. Landon Donovan crossed the ball into the box and in the ensuing melee Todd Dunivant managed a hard-fought, scrappy goal that put the home side ahead. Six minutes later Roysten Drenthe went in for a high-flying challenge against Juninho that resulted in a penalty kick being awarded to the Galaxy. Landon Donovan stepped up to the mark, sending Dudek the wrong way and putting the ball in at the far post. As the first half whistle was blown the Galaxy found themselves in the unlikely position of being up 2-0 against Real Madrid.
Jose Mourinho made wholesale changes at the start of the second half, introducing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain, Marcelo and Iker Casillas. LA Galaxy also made many changes, subbing in Josh Saunders for Donovan Rickets, Mike Magee for Edson Buddle and Jovan Kirovski for Landon Donovan among others.
Mourinho’s changes had an immediate impact on the match. Cristiano Ronaldo (photo), with his speed, footwork and mesmerizing stepovers, caused instant problems for the defense, dazzling the crowd in the process.
But it would be the Gonzalo Higuain who would pull one back for the visitors in the 52nd minute. Receiving a cross from Ronaldo, the Argentine evaded Gregg Berhalter and nutmegged Saunders, making it 2-1.
Ronaldo almost equalized just after the hour mark when he received a through ball from Marcelo on a one-two, forcing a big save from Saunders. However Real Madrid did equalize a minute later when Higuain turned away from his marker and shot from the left, beating Saunders and netting at the far post.
Real Madrid keeper, Iker Casillas found himself with very little to do in the second half as the home side were effectively pushed onto their back foot for the better part of 45 minutes. When the Galaxy did manage to go forward their efforts tended to break up on the rocks of Real Madrid’s crisply efficient midfield and sturdy back three.
The Galaxy’s best chance of the second half came in the 70th minute when Magee broke down the right and nutmegged Marcelo, only to fire his shot well wide of the far post.
One minute later, the visitors punished the home side for this missed opportunity. Working on a hat trick, Higuain shot from close range and had his effort deflected by Saunders. Unfortunately for the Galaxy, Alvaro Arbeloa got hold of the deflection and chipped the ball into the back of the net from 30 yards, making it 3-1.
The Galaxy might have had one final chance in the 89th minute when they were awarded a free kick. However the ball was played long, into the area where Jovan Kirovski headed it off target and out of play, resulting in a goal kick for Real Madrid.
Cristiano Ronaldo very nearly had the last word in the 92nd minute when he received a back pass from Higuain and put his shot just outside of the near post, into the side netting.
After four minutes of stoppage time the final whistle blew and the score-line remained at 3-2 in favor of the Spaniards. However, just as they had against Barcelona the previous summer, the LA Galaxy had given a positive account of themselves in the face of top-level opposition.
Galaxy’s next league outing will be away to the New York Red Bulls on the 14th of August. Real Madrid, meanwhile will face Bayern Munich in another pre-season friendly at the Allianz Arena on August 13th