Real Madrid vs Club America 8/4/10

As big international clubs look to extend their brands beyond 6am television,
more and more of them are coming to the States for summer friendlies. The
Bay Area has benefitted from that the last few years, and this year was no
exception. Real Madrid, the world's richest club came to San Francisco's
Candlestick Park to play Club America, one of Mexico's most storied franchises.

Mexican clubs and the Mexican national side have been playing around here
for years, and their fans are always out in full force. It was surprising however
to see the very large contingent of Madrid supporters, shown here waiting for
autographs from Lassana Diarra before the match.

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Madrid's new manager Jose Mourinho was coaching his first match for RMCF.
Here he is relaxing on the bench. Not pictured: a scrum of about 40
photographers spread out in front of him.

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After what seemed like a very long run-up, the match finally started. Madrid
was on the offensive, with much of the play filtering through Marcelo Vieira (R),
here challenging Club America's Enrique Esqueda (L) for the ball.

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Madrid was missing World Cup stars Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos,
and Kaka, but the one who really counted, Christiano Ronaldo was there, and
he came to play. The picture below catches him doing one of his patented
stepover routines that terrorizes defenders across Europe. This is the flashy
side of his game that many people hate, but watching the match from ground
level gave me a whole new appreciation for Ronaldo's game. It usually doesn't
come across on TV, and I didn't manage to catch it in stills, but his pinpoint
no-look passing was a pleasure to watch.

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It's not all finesse with Ronaldo, it's tough to really knock him off the ball
(unless he's trying to draw a foul) , a lesson learned here by Juan Carlos Silva (L).

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Of course, whenever you talk about Ronaldo, you can't ignore the theatrics.
Here he directs a tantrum at a ball boy who was a bit slow throwing in a new ball.

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After blowing a scoring opportunity, Ronaldo smiles as he trots back on defense.

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And what game would be complete without Ronaldo rolling around on the
ground trying to draw a foul?

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Midway through the first half, Club America's Aquivaldo Mosquera (3) picked
up a yellow card for a hard challenge, and then proceeded to get right in the
face of the official. Had this not been a friendly, I'm quite certain that Mosquera
would have been red carded for dissent.< /br>

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The match featured two French stars who were left of of Les Bleus for the World
Cup by their insane former manager Raymond Domenech. Lassana Diarra< /br> was not much of a factor, but Karim Benzema was certainly the star of the first
half, assisting on Madrid's first goal and creating three other chances. Here
he is winning two key headers just minutes apart:

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Madrid's Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain scored on this strike from 20 yards:

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Angel Di Maria subbed in at the half for Benzema, and really kept the pressure
on Club America. Here he flew down the field on a breakaway.

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And it took a very nice effort from Joaquin Martinez to dispossess him.

© Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Madrid won 3-2 in a very entertaining game for a meaningless friendly.
Shooting at Candlestick is never easy as it has some of the worst lighting of
any major pro venue, and gets very cold and windy at night. Complicating this
match was the lineup sheet handed out at the beginning that was rife with
mismatches between players and numbers. Had I not known the players in
advance, I would have transmitted a bunch of pictures with bad captions.
Otherwise the event seemed well-organized and well-attended.

Now once again, it's back to baseball for me.