NEW YORK — At a sold-out venue that has seen its fair share of home runs, Spanish titans Real Madrid knocked traditional Italian powerhouse A.C. Milan out of the park with a resounding 5-1 preseason victory at Yankee Stadium in the World Football Challenge on Wednesday night.
Cristiano Ronaldo excited a majority of the 49,474 in attendance as the Portuguese star scored two dazzling goals in the second half to break a 1-1 score and give Los Galacticos the lead for good.
The pro-Madrid supporters showed their support by intermittently chanting “Mad-rid!” and would roar for Ronaldo to work his dribbling magic. Fans even did the Mexican wave, as most seemed to have purchased tickets to witness some of the world’s most gifted players in full view rather than pay attention to the final result.
A rather uninspired A.C. Milan squad failed to generate much of an attack for most of the 90 minutes, and the Serie A club’s offense almost seemed nonexistent for the first quarter of action.
Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria got the scoring started in the 24th minute when the Argentine winger drilled a fantastic volley from distance that goalkeeper Christian Abbiati was left helpless to stop. But Milan would even the match in the 33rd minute, as Robinho took a fine lead pass from Antonio Nocerino and slotted the ball past Iker Casillas.
The second half was completely dominated by Real Madrid. When Ronaldo wasn’t scoring, Gonzalo Higuain was hitting the crossbar, or Los Blancos were forcing corner kicks as youngsters like Alvaro Morata weren’t giving substitute goalkeeper Mattia de Sciglio a moment to gather his composure.
By the 81st minute, Mourinho’s squad was able to capitalize on some questionable marking off a corner kick, as defender Sergio Ramos leaped high into the humid night to head home Real Madrid’s fourth goal of the match.
Young forward Jose Callejon would add another just before the final whistle to give the defending La Liga champions some momentum heading into the their final exhibition match against Celtic at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Saturday before kicking off the La Liga season against Valencia on Aug. 19.
Real Madrid also have an upcoming two-match series against rival Barcelona in the Spanish Supercup, which is a match that pins the Copa del Rey winner against the La Liga champion.
Following Wednesday’s match, Mourinho professed that the Real Madrid – Barcelona supremacy in La Liga won’t be quite as dominate in 2012-2013. He said that neither club will finish with 100-team points or score 120 goals, and cited the depth of the Spanish league as Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao were finalists in the 2011-2012 UEFA Europa League final.
“The league is very, very strong. The teams are very technical,” said Mourinho. “That’s the reason I am in Spain, because I want to be where the best league is.”
For A.C. Milan, the loss was not quite as painful as the final score might suggest. For i Rossoneri, the 2012-2013 season is likely to be marked by rebuilding efforts. Gone are famed striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, along with Thiago Silva, Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf, Gianluca Zambrotta, Filippo Inzaghi and Alessandro Nesta, as the Serie A giants make efforts to build with younger talent.
Stephan El Shaarawy, a 19-year-old striker, is considered a burgeoning star, and the mohawked Savona native had his moments on a sweaty evening when a boisterous crowd was craving creativity and flare, and responded accordingly.
“If I [had] this kind of enthusiastic crowd at [Santiago] Bernabeu [Stadium], I don’t lose a match at the Bernabeu,” said Mourinho, about the energy in the Bronx.