Real Madrid got the International Champions Cup started on the right foot with a convincing 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Thursday night in Glendale, Ariz.
In front of an excited crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium, Los Merengues dominated possession and got an early goal from Angel Di Maria as well as a second-half brace from Karim Benzema. That turned out to be more than enough, although the Galaxy showed some good fight down the stretch, while Jose Villarreal scored a memorable goal with a thunderous strike.
Although he didn't find the back of the net, the first 45 minutes belonged to Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portugal superstar was in fine form on Thursday, displaying world-class speed along with flashy footwork that had the "opposing" crowd "ooh"ing and "ahh"ing all half.
And in the 15th minute, he was able to assist on Di Maria's opening goal:
For the rest of the half, Real Madrid was commanding.
With La Liga play approaching, Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti put out a starting XI that featured many of the usual suspects, and Real Madrid's talent advantage over a Galaxy lineup minus Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane was apparent.
The Spanish side had the ball in its half for nearly the entire half, and the Galaxy were lucky to head into the locker room down just one goal.
With several subs coming in at the start of the second half, it didn't take long for Real Madrid to double its lead.
New signing Isco delivered a wonderful ball to Benzema, who brought it down with a deft touch and finished in a clinical fashion. Futbol Bible gives us a look at the pretty goal:
Give credit to the overmatched Los Angeles side for not giving up, however.
Bruce Arena's side pushed on and looked far more dangerous in the second half. In the 65th minute, it finally broke through.
When an awry clearance dropped to Villarreal, the 19-year-old did brilliantly to beat two defenders and send in a rocket into the top right corner out of the reach of Diego Lopez.
The Galaxy's pressure would turn around to bite them right back, however, in the 74th minute when Di Maria turned a counter-attack into a long run down the left side. He eventually crossed the ball into a wide-open Benzema in the middle of the box, where the Frenchman headed it home for an easy goal.
This game was never in doubt, but really, no one ever expected it to be.
In a tournament like this, it was more about the experience. And for some of the Galaxy's youngsters, being able to compete on the same field as guys like Ronaldo, Kaka and Mesut Ozil is something they will never forget.
Isco, Real Madrid: A
Real Madrid's new toy looked as shiny as ever on Thursday.
Isco's ball to Ronaldo, which resulted in the game's first goal, was spectacular. His assist to Benzema, a 40-yard pass with the outside of his foot right on the money, was world-class.
The 21-year-old continued to impress, showing some tantalizing dribbling skills around the box before finally putting a shot on goal that was batted away.
Man of the match.
Brian Rowe, Los Angeles Galaxy: B
All things considering, it was a pretty solid night for Brian Rowe.
There was really nothing he could have done on the first two goals, while he made several saves and did a great job of fending off Real Madrid's relentless attack.
His positioning on Real Madrid's third goal, however, was quite poor, and that brings his grade down a bit.
Nevertheless, an encouraging performance from the 24-year-old.
Real Madrid advances to the semifinals to take on Everton on Saturday night. The L.A. Galaxy, meanwhile, will face Juventus in the loser's bracket, also on Saturday.