In what was arguably the most star-studded club friendly to date this offseason, Real Madrid held off Paris Saint-Germain by a score of 1-0 on Saturday at Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden, according to Real Madrid C.F. on Twitter.
There were storylines galore in this contest as PSG star striker and captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic played in front of his home-country fans. While Ibrahimovic made some solid plays, he didn't receive enough support from his teammates.
Also, new Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti went up against his old team in PSG. Ancelotti obviously knows the PSG roster like the back of his hand, and it showed as Madrid was able to score early and hold off Les Parisiens' attack for the remainder of the match.
It was apparent very early on that there was a ton of talent on the pitch as PSG midfielder Thiago Motta put a majestic ball over the top of the Madrid defense in the seventh minute. It was just out of the reach of forward Ezequiel Lavezzi, though, as Madrid avoided disaster.
PSG continued to attack a couple minutes later as midfielder Lucas Moura led a beautiful run down the pitch that resulted in him entering Madrid's 18-yard box. Moura was unable to maintain his balance, though, and his opportunity went begging.
After that chance, Los Blancos began to turn up the pressure as they connected on some impressive passes. A sequence in the 15th minute was particularly spectacular as essentially every forward player touched the ball, as Madrid poked and prodded its way through the PSG box. Striker Karim Benzema put a well-struck shot on goal, but goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu took care of it.
Paris SG composed itself a bit later as it created its best chance of the first half in the 22nd minute. Right-back Maxwell ventured down the flank and sent a pinpoint pass to Lavezzi in front of the goal. Lavezzi tried to touch it past a sliding Diego Lopez, but the ball went just wide.
Following the close call on PSG's part, Madrid was able to break the early deadlock. Benzema was marked just outside the 18-yard box, but he found just enough space to release a shot on net. It couldn't have been placed better as he hooked the ball low into the right corner of the net to put Madrid on top.
PSG built its attack back up after going down 1-0, and it seemed to have something going in the 31st minute as it had numbers. Madrid was able to diffuse the situation, though, as Diego Lopez caught Javier Pastore's long, ambitious try at goal.
The Parisians once again moved forward in the 36th minute as Lucas looked dangerous. In a desperate attempt to prevent an ideal scoring chance from PSG, Madrid midfielder Luka Modric slide-tackled Lucas from behind. It was a dangerous-looking challenge, and Modric certainly earned the yellow card.
Lavezzi's tough-luck match continued a few minutes later as he once again found himself on the Madrid doorstep. Fellow PSG striker Ibrahimovic headed the ball to a wide-open Lavezzi, but he was unable to corral it as it went off him out of bounds.
It could have easily been Lavezzi's second or third goal of the match, but he was stuck at zero, and Paris SG fans must have been thinking about what might have been if new acquisition Edinson Cavani was available.
Madrid threatened once more in the 41st minute as a beautiful cross flashed in front of both Sami Khedira and Benzema in the PSG box. The ball eluded Khedira, and Benzema's diving header went just wide of the net.
Los Blancos very nearly extended the lead early in the second half as Cristiano Ronaldo smacked a strong header on goal. Sirigu was able to parry the ball high in the air, but it came back down to Ronaldo, who volleyed it over the top of the net.
Ronaldo had yet another chance minutes later as he and Benzema broke out on an outnumbered rush. Despite the fact that there were plenty of defenders back, Ronaldo was able to get a shot away. Sirigu once again took care of business, and Ronaldo was left shaking his head.
The action was fairly even for the next 10 minutes or so with the biggest roar from the crowd coming when Brazilian midfielder Kaka checked in for Benzema in the 67th minute.
There weren't many scoring chances after that as Madrid fell into a defensive posture, and PSG was unable to sustain an attack. Los Blancos stymied the Parisians late, and truly earned the 1-0 triumph.
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid): A
With Gonzalo Higuain now at Napoli, Benzema will be expected to step up his play this season for Madrid. Benzema certainly took a big step toward that on Saturday as he was a dominant force for Los Blancos. Benzema's goal in the first half was magical as he didn't have any business even coming up with a realistic scoring chance.
The French forward fought off a defender, created room for himself and struck the ball perfectly as it eluded Sirigu. In addition to the goal, Benzema constantly put himself in scoring positions. He narrowly missed a diving header late in the first half, and he could constantly be seen counterattacking throughout his time on the pitch. Madrid fans may be concerned about his ability to take on more responsibility this season, but he won't have any problem adjusting if he continues to play like this.
Ezequiel Lavezzi (PSG): D+
It's fair to say that nothing went Lavezzi's way on Saturday. To his credit, he was often in positions that were conducive to scoring, but his finishing touch eluded him. Lavezzi narrowly missed on a number of occasions, and although he continued to press forward and wasn't lacking confidence, his inability to score was a big reason for PSG's loss.
The outing was particularly discouraging for Lavezzi because the arrival of Cavani promises to push him out of the starting lineup and eat into his playing time significantly. Even if Lavezzi had scored a couple goals, that probably wouldn't have changed, but manager Laurent Blanc won't be inspired to play him in big moments knowing that he can't finish.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid): B+
Who was the man of the match?
As arguably the best player in the world, all eyes are constantly on Ronaldo. While he got some much-needed work in and had some scoring chances, Ronaldo clearly wasn't in mid-season form on Saturday. Ronaldo displayed some wizardry on the ball as he always does, and he did create a couple chances in the second half, but it was far from a vintage Ronaldo showing.
With that said, it was nice to see him play the entire game against formidable competition. Ronaldo's performance would have been top notch for pretty much anyone else, but he is graded on a tougher scale due to his normal excellence. It's almost as if Ronaldo fails when he doesn't register a goal. Ronaldo's outing was far from a failure, but there is no doubt that better matches are ahead for him.
Lucas Moura (PSG): A-
PSG looked dangerous early before tailing off for much of the match, and the main reason for the squad's first-half success was Lucas. The 20-year-old Brazilian was electric as he ran up and down the pitch with the greatest of ease. He played some impressive passes to his teammates, and he had some exciting forays into the attacking half of the field as well. He was unable to finish, but he'll be rewarded moving forward if he continues to play with that much effort.
There is good reason for PSG fans to be excited with Cavani coming in to join creative offensive players such as Moura. Look for Moura and the PSG attack to take Ligue 1 by storm this season as goals figure to be easier to come by than they were against Madrid.
|Sami Khedira (76')||DM||B-|
|Luka Modric (46')||DM||C+|
|Karim Benzema (67')||ST||A|
|Angel di Maria (46')||DM||B-|
|Alvaro Morata (76')||ST||C|
|Christophe Jallet (73')||LB||B|
|Mamadou Sakho (62')||CB||C|
|Blaise Matuidi (62')||AM||C+|
|Lucas Moura (73')||AM||A-|
|Ezequiel Lavezzi (62')||ST||D+|
|Thiago Silva (62')||CB||B|
|Marco Verratti (62')||AM||B-|
|Hervin Ongenda (62')||ST||C-|
|Gregory van der Wiel (73')||LB||C|
|Kingsley Coman (73')||AM||C-|
After a strong showing against PSG, Madrid will head to the United States for the International Champions Cup tournament. Los Blancos will open against the defending MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy before taking on either Everton or Juventus. Following the ICC, Madrid has a friendly scheduled against Internazionale on August 10. La Liga play then starts one week later.
PSG, on the other hand, will start playing important matches almost immediately. The Parisians will meet Bordeaux in a French Cup match on August 2 before league play begins on August 9 against Montpellier. While Madrid will have some time to get its players acclimated before meaningful matches commence, Paris SG essentially has to find its form right away.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.