WFC: Real Madrid top Celtic to finish US tour perfect
PHILADELPHIA – Real Madrid were just perfect.
The defending Spanish La Liga champions won their fourth and final 2012 Herbalife World Football Challenge match after blanking Scottish champions Celtic Glasgow 2-0 on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.
Young forward Jose Maria Callejon scored his fifth goal of the preseason and Karim Benzema added a world-class finish in the second half as Real Madrid wrapped up their summer tour with a 14-3 goal differential, boding well for their start to the European campaign.
The match was off to a lazy start in the 85-degree afternoon with a predictable script featuring the Spanish champions dictating play. But Real Madrid struggled to get in behind an organized Celtic squad which keptnumbers behind the ball. In fact, the first real threat at goal only came in the 17th minute on a shot by Cristiano Ronaldo which finished off-target.
Full Match Highlights
The breakthrough was quick to follow as an eager Callejon was first to react to a loose ball in the box after Gonzalo Higuain’spenetrating run was intercepted by Celtic’s defenders. Callejon picked up the scraps, skipping by the goalkeeper and walking in the ball across the goal line in the 22nd minute.
World star Ronaldo failed to replicate his stellar New York City performance from Wednesday’s demolishing of AC Milan. He tried his best to light up the crowd with a 29th minute curler that narrowly missed the top right corner and another shot from the right wing two minutes later that slammed into Celtic ‘keeper Lukasz Zaluska.
The Scottish team, which has already played six friendlies and three competitive matches this summer, slowly took control of the matchafter the goal with a tiring Madrid side happy to cede control and take a breather. Celtic’s best look came just before the halftime whistle when captain Joe Ledley fired a left-footed blast over the bar.
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There was little flow to the game in the second half with Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho making eight substitutions 15 minutes after the break. But a moment of brilliance from the Frenchman Benzema brought the crowd to its feet in the 67th minute.
The Frenchman collected a long pass in the left side of the box and faced up Celtic right back Adam Matthews using a fake and a step-over before clinically finishing with a low, left-footed shot that pinged off the far right post.
The festive atmosphere was abruptly interrupted in the 72nd minute after a scary collision between Real Madrid left back Nuri Sahin andCeltic teenage winger Dylan McGeouch, which left the Hoops player on the ground out cold. McGeouch’s teammates frantically motioned for help and he was treated for more than five minutes before being carted off the field to an encourage applause from the crowd.
The match represented Real Madrid’s final test before they begin defense of their La Liga title with their league opener against Valencia on Sunday, August 19.
Celtic, who only traveled 16 players after Wednesday’s victorious UEFA Champions League qualifier second leg against HJK Helsinki, return to Scottish Premier League play on August 18 against Ross County, which will be followed by a critical home-and-home series against Swedish champions Helsingborgs for a ticket to the UEFA Champions League group stage.