Paris Saint-Germain’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic (second from right) heads the ball in front of Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso (second from left) and Cristiano Ronaldo (left) during their friendly yesterday. (AFP)
By Yash Mudgal/Doha
Carlo Ancelotti’s second face-off with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) within six months proved to be successful yet again as a Gareth Bale-less Real Madrid registered a 1-0 win over the Parisian club at the Khalifa Stadium yesterday.
Madrid’s 20-year-old Spanish striker Jese Rodriguez scored the only goal of the match in the 19th minute.
“It was a good game, not easy to play, (considering) we were playing after a gap (mid-season Christmas break for La Liga), and PSG also had a mid-season break, so it was not an easy match, but the end result was good for us,” Ancelotti said.
At the start of the season, the Spanish club had defeated the French side 1-0, also in a friendly in Gothenburg in June. The match was Ancelotti’s first as Real coach after leaving the Paris club.
Yesterday’s match, while a friendly, had produced a very entertaining first half with some end-to-end attacks and some close finishing. While PSG emerged as the better team, Madrid was leading at half-time.
The two teams met here to keep their fitness levels up ahead of their return to competitive action after their respective winter breaks.
The focus for many in the match was a first-time meeting between Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic since Portugal’s 4-2 win over Sweden in November’s World Cup play-off match. The two had scored all six goals in that match.
This time, however, the lower-profile names combined for the game’s only goal in the 19th minute, as Alvaro Morata slipped a defence-splitting through ball for Jese and the young frontman rolled his shot beyond the advancing Salvatore Sirigu to make it 1-0 for Los Blancos.
Madrid came close to adding to the scores twice but only managed to hit the woodwork even as PSG had plenty of chances of their own.
Edinson Cavani could have had a first-half brace, but was thwarted by Diego Lopez when the Madrid keeper rushed off his line to foil the Uruguayan, who sent an ambitious volley narrowly wide of the post following Ibrahimovic’s chipped pass.
Blaise Matuidi nearly equalised with a curling effort from a tight angle and Ezequiel Lavezzi wasted a chance from the edge of the box as the French side squandered several first-half chances before Madrid hit the frame of the goal either side of the interval.
Jese’s shot from Ronaldo’s pass cannoned back off the post, and then a skillful solo effort from Karim Benzema, who controlled a cross on his chest only to see the shot off the half-volley kept out by the crossbar.
The second-half failed to match the quality of the first as Real Madrid fielded an entirely different team for the second half, with Ronaldo coming off and players like Karim Benzema, Isco and Angel Di Maria entering, while PSG brought on Lucas Moura and Maxwell, to keep the ‘true spirit’ of a friendly.
PSG’s wastefulness continued in the second half as Thiago Motta headed over at the near post and Lucas Moura did the same in the final stages.
“For us, it was a preparation match so we don’t really consider it to be a defeat; it was more of a training exercise,” said PSG’s Brazilian left-back Maxwell.
“The most important thing for us is Sunday and our match in the French Cup against second division side Brest. We’re not at 100 per cent and could still feel the effects of the holiday season in our legs,” he added.
“Actually it was a nice game… We had our chances but unfortunately we couldn’t convert them into goals. I think it was a good preparation for upcoming Ligue 1 matches,” said PSG coach Laurent Blanc.
Commenting on his meeting with French legend Zidane, who is assisting Ancelotti at Madrid, Blanc said, “Zidane is a great man and I was happy to see him today. We were together, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to discuss lot of issues.”
Real return to action in La Liga on Sunday at home against Celta Vigo, while PSG, three points clear at the top of Ligue 1, play Brest in French Cup.
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