By Sports Reporter/Doha
Before a capacity crowd including ministers, VIPs, dignitaries and hundreds of excited fans, Real Madrid and Fenerbahçe got the seventh Al Kass International Cup underway in thrilling fashion, with the young Spaniards cruising to a 6-2 victory over their determined Turkish counterparts.
In the second game, Benfica ran out comfortable 4-0 victors against Guangzhou Evergrande.
Earlier, Dutch footballing legend Wesley Sneijder – recently signed by Al Gharafa to compete in the QNB Stars League – got things underway by performing the ceremonial kick-off.
And, with the game just five minutes old, Fenerbahçe jolted their opponents out of their rhythm when left back Abdulcebrail Akbulut pounced on a loose ball to power a hard, low shot home. The ecstatic Turks erupted into wild celebrations, but their joy would be short-lived.
Real took some time to recover from this early setback, but gradually began to show their class.
Jorge Martin Camunas was starting to look dangerous with some powerful runs down the inside left channel, and he earned a free kick 15 minutes in. Alvaro de Frias floated the ball into the area but unmarked centre back Sergio Santos, with the goal at his mercy, could not connect.
However, moments later Madrid were level following a goalmouth scramble that left keeper Umut Eren Tunc marooned, allowing centre forward Juan Latasa to slot into an unguarded net.
Just before the half-hour, Real were ahead. There seemed little danger when Julio Escorcia picked up the ball wide on the right, but he was allowed to drill in a low cross unchallenged, and Camunas found the net from close range with a side-footed volley.
Madrid number 10 de Frias then conjured some skilful footwork on the edge of the Fenerbahçe area before picking his spot and expertly curling a low effort into the left corner.
The deficit increased soon after the restart after substitute Jorge Ramirez powered forward and fed di Frias, who was brought down in the area, leaving referee Moatassim Ahamed little option but to point to the spot. Tunc produced a fine save, low to his right, from Carlos Gonzalez’ spot kick, but the Real number 8 made no mistake from the rebound.
A minute later and it was 5-1 after skipper Marcos Blazquez crossed from the right, and an unmarked de Frias headed home from close range at the near post. The midfield powerhouse was soon replaced by Christian Garcia, with Real coach Manuel Fernandez mindful of the need to conserve his young team’s energy. The change did nothing to reduce Madrid’s dominance, as David Franco made it six around the hour mark.
There was still time for a consolation goal, with Turkish number 15 Omer Beyaz converting from the spot in added time to make the final score 6-2.
In the second match, the pattern was quickly established, with the Lisbon youngsters’ quick passing technique countered by feisty defending from the Chinese.
Benfica youngster Sandro De Cruz was an early victim of Guangzhou’s physical approach, hobbling off after just five minutes to be replaced by Joao Ferriera.
It took a moment of magic for Benfica to take the lead, and it arrived courtesy of Hugo Nunez, who dribbled through the Evergrande defence before spinning away from two defenders and applying an accurate finish – an early contender for goal of the tournament.
Minutes later, Goncalo De Oliviera received the reward that his fine forward play had warranted, beating Xiaofeng Wang at close range, after the keeper had blocked his initial effort, to put the Portuguese two up.
The second half got underway with Guangzhou still exhibiting little attacking intent. Benfica could afford to keep a high defensive line, their back four seldom required to retreat far from the halfway line.
Just before the hour mark, with little prospect of Benfica squandering their lead, manager Francisco Candeias made a double substitution. His team continued to play the same patient passing game while Guangzhou – to their credit – defended stoutly.
Jair Tavares’ persistence bore fruit when he embarked on a mazy run down the left before delivering a low cross for De Oliviera to prod home for his second of the game.
With just a quarter of an hour remaining – Guangzhou fashioned their first and only chance of the game, when Yujie Zhang ran on to a through ball and attempted to lift the ball over retreating Benfica keeper Samuel Soares, but his attempt was heroically saved.
It was little surprise when Benfica added a fourth courtesy of the lively Nunes, who blasted home from short range past the unfortunate Wang – Guangzhou’s standout player. Yet there was still time for the Chinese keeper to further highlight his ability when, moments later, he touched Ronaldo Camara’s rasping effort onto the bar with a superb flying save.
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