José Mourinho’s first game as Real Madrid manager will go down in the books as a 3-2 victory over Club América, but it was hardly because of the Special One’s work on the sideline.
Even with eight internationals not on hand – including all five members of Spain’s World Cup-winning team – Madrid simply outclassed América for much of an entertaining Wednesday evening at Candlestick Park.
“Some players arrived late and were in worse shape than the others,” Mourinho said through a translator. “We’re very far away from what we can be.”
That should scare foes in La Liga, because outside of a brief post-halftime flurry for América, during which time the Mexican side scored both their goals to build a short-lived lead, Real Madrid were in command.
Cristiano Ronaldo – last seen stalking away from Portugal’s devastating 1-0 loss to Spain in the World Cup’s round of 16 and spitting out angry quotes about coach Carlos Queiroz on the way to the bus – slid a through ball to Gonzalo Higuaín in the 63rd minute to tie things at 2-2.
Higuaín almost provided the go-ahead goal in the 80th minute, but was called barely offside. Ronaldo made the call moot two minutes later when he bent a wicked free kick from 24 yards out for what would be the game-winner.
“We don’t want to win games in preseason," Mourinho said, "we want to win in the regular season, and this is good practice."
Real Madrid, who are headquartered in Los Angeles this week in anticipation of their North American finale against the MLS-leading Galaxy on Saturday, did not bring to San Francisco any of their five members from Spain’s World Cup title-winning squad: goalkeeper Iker Casillas, defenders Raúl Albiol, Álvaro Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos and midfielder Xabi Alonso.
Also missing were Brazil’s Kaká, the Netherlands’ Rafael van der Vaart and Germany’s Sami Khedira, whose transfer from Stuttgart was finalized over the weekend.
That gave Real’s youngsters a chance to make their mark, and 19-year-old Sergio Canales jumped through the open door. In his Real Madrid debut after a $6 million transfer from Racing Santander, Canales opened the scoring in the 34th minute, pushing the ball easily past Guillermo Ochoa from eight yards out.
The ‘keeper had been pulled out of position by a series of one-touch passes that zipped from Karim Benzema to Ronaldo and back to Benzema, who squared it off to an unmarked Canales.
That capped an opening 45 minutes in which Real Madrid – who signed Mourinho this summer in a bid to close the gap with two-time defending Spanish champions FC Barcelona – absolutely outclassed Club America, who were was outshot 11-0 by halftime.
“It was shots from good play, not just getting shots,” Mourinho said.
América – the overwhelming favorite of a crowd of 47,338 – were kept in the game mostly by the work of Ochoa, who made a critical kick save in the 17th minute on Benzema, who was dangerous throughout before being pulled at the half.
That was one of six changes for Madrid, and whether it was the raft of substitutions or the fact that Real are just starting their preseason while América are two matches into their Apertura campaign, the Mexican team came out roaring immediately after intermission.
Las Águilas needed just eight minutes to tie things up when Enrique Esqueda ran onto a long through ball on the left side from Adolfo Rosinei and cut a one-timed right-footed shot hard to the far post. Esqueda’s roller eluded the grasp of charging 'keeper Antonio Adán, who took a long time to settle in after his halftime insertion.
Vicente Sánchez created a mirror image goal in the 61st, whipping a hard one-timer with his left foot from the right wing, and once again Adán was beaten far post.
Madrid were not going to let Mourinho down, however.
RM – Sergio Canales (Karim Benzema) 34
RM – Gonzalo Higuaín (Cristiano Ronaldo) 63
CA – Enrique Esqueda (Adolfo Rosinei) 53
CA – Vicente Sánchez (Adolfo Rosinei) 61
RM – Cristiano Ronaldo (free kick) 82
CA – Aquivaldo Mosquera (caution) 21
CA – Israel Martínez (caution) 81
RM – Ezequiel Garay (caution) 85
Real Madrid: Dudek (Adán 46); Juanfran (M. Diarra 46), Pepe, Garay, Marcelo (Drenthe 46); Gago (Granero 46), Pedro León (Morales 85), L. Diarra (Tébar 69), Canales (Higuaín 46); Ronaldo (Alex 85), Benzema (di María 46)
Club América: Ochoa (Navarrete 46); Sánchez, Rojas, Mosquera, Rosinei; Montenegro (Sandoval 46), Esqueda (Márquez 87), Pardo (Layún 46), Vuoso (López 46); Sánchez (J. Martínez 87), I. Martínez (Corral 87)