WFC: Real Madrid pass tough test vs. Santos in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS – On Thursday, it took Real Madrid just two minutes to open the floodgates against the LA Galaxy. It took 14 minutes for Xabi Alonso to find the back of the net on Sunday against Santos Laguna, but the end result was still victory for Los Merengues.
And although it wasn’t nearly as comprehensive as Real’s 5-1 win at the Home Depot Center and required a bit of luck on the part of Sami Khedira, who inadvertently scored the game-winner with his face, Madrid was more than happy to escape with a result in a match in which temperatures were a sweltering 102 degrees at kickoff.
José Mourinho didn’t speak to reporters following the game at Sam Boyd Stadium, but Real Madrid assistant coach and former Colorado Rapids defender Aitor Karanka said the two games were lessons in contrast.
“It’s been a totally different game than the other one,” Karanka said. “[Santos] is team in the middle of their competition, they came out to have a good result, the field was different from the parameters we are used to, and maybe that’s why it was more difficult.
GOAL: Khedira scores winner vs. Santos
“It was really hot too, but the most important thing is to continue working the way we are. It was a game with more contact, very physical, and [Santos] was at the level that we expected.”
After Alonso made it 1-0, it looked like Real Madrid might put together another explosive offensive performance, but Benjamín Galindo’s side struck back through Cristian Suárez after gamely weathering the storm.
They eventually capitulated when goalkeeper Oswaldo Sánchez punched Karim Benzema’s cross into Khedira’s face and into the net, but the Spaniards were well aware that they were fortunate to leave Las Vegas with a second straight win.
"It was very tough, against a strong team who came in in better form,” José Nacho Fernández, who played the second half, told reporters after the match. “Even though they were in better shape than us, we won and that's what's important."
Karanka shared a similar sentiment, placing the focus on the squad’s strong mentality in unfamiliar conditions.
In a season in which Real will try to defend their La Liga title from a Barcelona side surely targeting a return to the top as well as tackle the task of capturing an elusive Champions League title, winning even in the toughest of circumstances will be crucial.
“The most important thing is that this group is still growing, they have the same ambition to win,” Karanka said. “These players have won many titles, but we still feel the ambition that this team has for wining and that’s the best thing, because with the quality of players that we have and for them to still have that ambition, that give us the calmness to know that they will continue to complete to the highest level”