Manchester City concluded their pre-season tour of Australia on Friday with a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid to finish their International Champions Cup campaign at the bottom of the table.
First-half goals from Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe steered Los Blancos to a 3-1 lead at the break, with Yaya Toure adding a consolation from the penalty spot. Denis Cheryshev put the seal on the result late in the second period.
As the sport continues to make its mark on Australia, Stuart Brennan of the Manchester Evening News confirmed the crowd of 99,382 was a new record at the Melbourne Cricket Ground:
City manager Manuel Pellegrini chose to once again hand some prospects their chance against big opposition, fielding Cameron Humphreys and Jason Denayer as a centre-back partnership, while Fabian Delph made his debut.
It wouldn't last long for the new arrival, though, after Delph pulled up with a hamstring tweak after just 17 minutes following a clash with Real's Luka Modric, with Jesus Navas coming on as his replacement.
Up until that point, both teams were enjoying chances in front of goal, and a superb Sergio Ramos block was needed to prevent Toure from opening the scoreline.
Delph's absence proved to have a particularly negative impact for the Citizens, though, with Gareth Bale crossing for Benzema to hook home a spectacular opener just four minutes later, per 101 Great Goals:
City's hopes of lifting Australia's International Champions Cup fell in the wake of the Frenchman's score, but a swift second from Ronaldo reduced their chances again after 24 minutes:
As two of the more experienced members of the defence, Aleksandar Kolarov and Bacary Sagna were expected to lead by example at the back, but both fell victim as Real raced two goals ahead.
Bale and Ronaldo continued to enjoy freedom on the flanks, while Modric and Isco were granted time to do their share of damage on the counter.
City's defence was fully accountable for leaking a third just before the break, as noted by Brennan, as Pepe headed home his side's third from a corner:
A stroke of good fortune finally came City's way, however, when Ramos mistakenly batted the ball away from Raheem Sterling with his hand, albeit outside the box.
Toure converted from the spot, but ESPN.com's Colin Udoh justly highlighted the wrong decision:
That score just prior to the break might have lit a fire under Pellegrini's men, but the second half proved to be a similar demonstration in their torment as Real's grip on the match only tightened.
Ex-Liverpool midfielder Don Hutchison highlighted the absence of Sergio Aguero as a major miss for the Citizens, with Sterling doing his utmost to provide both a spark and finishing tool:
Any attempt at a comeback was quashed when Isco ghosted into the City area far too easily, crossing to the back post for Cheryshev to poke past a helpless Joe Hart unmarked.
Pellegrini may regret his decision not to start with a more experienced lineup when there was silverware to be won in Melbourne. As a result, his side were made to look inferior by Real.
For Madrid manager Rafa Benitez, on the other hand, this will go down as a pleasing sight of how his side are evolving ahead of the new campaign, with the coach able to hand his own youngsters their chances in a classy win.
Cristiano Ronaldo: B+
Going about his usual business of fanning from flank to flank and through the middle, Ronaldo proved a typical handful for the inexperienced Manchester City centre-back pairing of Humphreys and Denayer.
However, there were still signs of the superstar's selfish habits shining through, as Goal.com's Ben Hayward attested after Ronaldo failed to celebrate Benzema's opener in the same manner he did his own:
There were occasions at the MCG on Friday where the three-time Ballon d'Or winner might have been better off passing rather than shooting from range, but his work rate in tormenting his markers was constant.
There have been murmurs Benitez will look to utilise Ronaldo in a central striking capacity more this season, but functioning primarily out wide on Friday showed glimpses of the forward at his best during a 65-minute outing.
Raheem Sterling: B-
The latest leg of "Sterling Watch" aired in Melbourne on Friday. Deployed once more as a leading figure in attack, the outing against Real didn't prove fruitful, and Hutchison once again outlined the need to have Aguero back to full fitness:
The MCG was suspected to have some Liverpool fans present, too, after football writer Samuel Jay C posted footage of Sterling's name being loudly booed:
When City did enjoy possession, Sterling did look like one of the team's most active assets, but the English giants were frustrated in their efforts to attack, and Sterling couldn't soar as desired.
Although his decision to start Humphreys and Denayer against such talented opposition will be praised by some, Pellegrini faced a line of questioning on his team selection following Friday's defeat.
The former Blancos chief went on to explain that Vincent Kompany was absent as his wife gives birth to their child, while Eliaquim Mangala missed the tie through illness, per City's official Twitter account:
Pre-season contests such as these may not have a grave bearing on the actual campaign, but Pellegrini is nonetheless unconcerned by his apparent lack in first-team depth right now:
The Citizens may also be expected to complete some more transfer business before the window is over, further alleviating any doubts over resources.
Pellegrini also commented on Delph's injury, confirming his hamstring would need further testing before learning the extent of the blow:
For the sake of his team's title hopes, the Manchester City boss will need all available players back sooner rather than later, having been shown up against elite opposition in Melbourne.