A nine-minute hat trick in the second half from Cristiano Ronaldo made the difference for Real Madrid on Wednesday in their World Football Challenge match against Club Deportivo Guadalajara in San Diego. The game was close throughout the first half, but Real Madrid’s class overcame Chivas as the game continued. Still, given that it was their final tune-up before starting their season on Saturday against Atlante, Chivas can take some pride in their performance for the first seventy minutes.
Both teams rolled out strong lineups, and the only major starter absent from the game for Chivas was Cubo Torres, who is preparing for the U-20 World Cup and will miss the start of the FMF season. Madrid controlled play in the first half, but Chivas did a good job breaking up links between the wings and forwards, and weathered the early chances. The second half was all Madrid, especially from the 73rd minute, as Cristiano Ronaldo got a nine minute hat trick.He scored the first in the 73rd on a close-range goal off an excellent cross from Benzema. Three minutes later, Pepe was brought down in the box by Omar Arellano and a penalty was awarded to Real Madrid. Ronaldo stepped up to take it, and scored. In the stadium there was initially some confusion as the ball rolled through the net, but it was indeed a goal. He followed that up with a goal in the 82nd minute with a shot off a centering pass from Mesut Ozil in the box that wrong-footed Michel. Overall, it was an impressive performance from Ronaldo, and he really seemed to take control of the game and put it out of Chivas’ reach in the second half.
Despite the lopsided scoreline in the end, Chivas look like they accomplished a lot in their last preseason game before the games start to count. Not getting a shot on goal all game isn’t the best indication that they are ready, but as Kevin McCauley mentioned in his season preview of Chivas, they will be heavily reliant on Cubo Torres this season, and he was not present at this game. Marco Fabian had a couple of sparks, but they were limited to a brief stretch in the first half, and he was anonymous for the rest of the game. Despite hopes that U-17 World Cup winners Carlos Fierro and Giovanny Casillas would get some playing time, neither player saw any action in this match.
Despite the lack of offensive firepower, the priority in this game for Chivas looked to be testing the defense, and they acquitted themselves well for the first 70 minutes. Players were not going in gently for challenges, and their pressure on Real Madrid’s attackers disrupted their rhythm going forward. On the bright side, Chivas can be relieved that they will not be facing any players as dangerous as Cristiano Ronaldo in the FMF, so they have to feel pretty good about their performance on the night, even if the headlines are not indicating as much. And Luis Michel was having a strong game until the barrage from Ronaldo, including a fantastic fingertip save past the post off a free kick header in the 37th minute. After the game, Michel was not pleased with the scoreline, but kept it in perspective, saying the quality of Real Madrid's squad gave him motivation coming into the match, and he thought he played pretty well, except for a couple of mistakes on the goals from open play.
Patricio Araujo was also asked after the match if the team was ready for the start of the season, and he responded, "Yes, we're ready. We believe we will be starting on the right foot." Considering the young talent Chivas have on their squad, it will be interesting to see if they can build off this game and off their liguilla run last season.