PHILADELPHIA — Real Madrid will leave the United States without any preseason losses — barely.
Capping off a mostly dominant performance through the Herbalife World Football Challenge, the La Liga powerhouse edged the Philadelphia Union 2-1 in front of 57,305 fans at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday night.
Real Madrid, who earlier this week routed the LA Galaxy and CD Guadalajara, end their US tour with a perfect 3-0 mark, but definitely had the most trouble with a scrappy Union squad that hung right in there with one of the world’s best teams on a blistering hot evening in Philly.
Before wearing down, however, Real Madrid asserted their dominance early — although they were aided by some uncharacteristic mistakes by the Union defense, one of Major League Soccer’s stingiest units.
In the second minute, Philly right back Sheanon Williams stumbled trying to track a long ball from Real’s Xabi Alonso, allowing José María Callejón to run onto the ball and blast it into the back corner of the net.
Then, in the 11th minute, Union center back Carlos Valdés failed to clear the ball as Real’s Karim Benzema gathered it near the sideline and delivered a pass to Mesut Özil, whose great first touch split the defense in the box. Özil then fired a shot past Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón to give the visitors a quick 2-0 lead to the pleasure of the large amount of pro-Real fans in the stands.
Mondragón, though, later showed why he’ll be representing the Union in Wednesday’s All-Star Game, saving a close-range shot from Callejón, who was vying for his second goal of the match.
The Union, to their credit, were not entirely outplayed in the first half either, despite trailing 2-0 at the halftime break.
In the 19th minute, Carlos Ruiz sprung Sébastien Le Toux free with a great through ball, but Le Toux, who has been snakebitten all season in finding the back of the net, was thwarted by star Madrid 'keeper Iker Casillas. Later, Ruiz’s breakaway attempt fell apart when his first touch was a little bit too much.
The Union also had a couple of promising crosses across the face of the net that didn’t materialize.
Both teams made plenty of changes in the second half, with the Union bringing in many of their reserves and Real Madrid bringing in some of their star attractions, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká.
Interestingly enough, though, it was the Union that looked like the more creative team for much of the second 45, and Ronaldo, a failed bicycle attempt aside, did not produce any jaw-dropping moments as he’s prone to do.
In the 80th minute, rookie Michael Farfan’s cheeky chip shot from just outside the box — off a pass from Danny Mwanga, who showcased his nifty ball-handling abilities throughout the evening — trimmed Real’s lead to 2-1.
And in the final minutes, Real Madrid looked to be back on their heels, especially as Philly’s Roger Torres fired a shot just high and wide in the 90th minute. Philly striker Jack McInerney then nearly tied the game in stoppage time, but Real Madrid substitute 'keeper Tomás Mejías made a sprawling save.
The Union, who defeated Everton FC on Wednesday, are now 1-1 this season in international exhibitions, and 3-2 all-time. They return to MLS play on Friday with a home game against the Colorado Rapids.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, ended their participation in the World Football Challenge with three wins in three games.
RM – José María Callejón (Unassisted) 2’
RM – Mesut Özil (Karim Benzema) 11’
PHI – Michael Farfan (Danny Mwanga) 80’
PHI – Juan Diego Gonzalez (Caution; Reckless challenge) 92+
Philadelphia Union: Faryd Mondragon (Zac MacMath 65), Sheanon Williams (Ryan Richter 81), Danny Califf (Juan Diego Gonzalez 75), Carlos Valdes (Stefani Miglioranzi 75), Gabriel Farfan (Jimmy McLaughlin 82), Justin Mapp (Zach Pfeffer 70), Brian Carroll (Amobi Okugo 70), Kyle Nakazawa (Michael Farfan 46), Keon Daniel (Roger Torres 46), Sébastien Le Toux (Jack McInerney 65), Carlos Ruiz (Danny Mwanga 46).
Substitutes Not Used: Veljko Paunovic
Real Madrid: Iker Casillas (Jesús Fernandez 46, Tomás Mejias 68), Ricardo Carvalho (Pepe 46), Karim Benzema, Mesut Özil (Fábio Coentrao 46), Esteban Granero (Kaká 46) , Xabier Alonso (Raúl Albiol 46), Alvaro Arbeola (Nacho 68), Raphael Varane (Jose Luis Mato 73), Jose Maria Callejon, Jorge Casado (Marcelo 46), Jese Rodriguez (Cristiano Ronaldo 46)
Substitutes Not Used: Marcelo Da Silva
Referee: Alex Prus
Time of game: 2:02