1. Rafael Benitez suffers frustrating Real Madrid debut in Melbourne

Rafael Benitez suffers frustrating Real Madrid debut in Melbourne

Rafa Benitez kicked off his tenure as Real Madrid boss with a frustrating 7-6 penalty shootout loss to AS Roma in a pre-season friendly on Saturday.

By: | Published: July 19, 2015 2:10 AM

Rafa Benitez kicked off his tenure as Real Madrid boss with a frustrating 7-6 penalty shootout loss to AS Roma in a pre-season friendly on Saturday.

With both teams goalless at full-time in front of a crowd of 80,746 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Seydou Keita slotted the winning penalty in the International Champions Cup match after a miss by Lucas Vazquez.

“I think it was a good game,” Benitez, who replaced Carlo Ancelotti after the La Liga giants finished trophyless last season, told reporters.

“You can see the draw but we had some chances at the beginning of the game. You can’t expect after five days (together) to play with a high tempo.”

Players, arriving from a European summer, huddled under blankets on the substitutes bench and the match never really heated up on a chilly evening — with the temperature hovering around seven degrees Celsius — despite a flurry of early chances.

Roma had the best of them and were denied an opener after three minutes when Daniele De Rossi hit the crossbar from the centre of the box.

Benitez started Gareth Bale in a central position behind Jese with Cristiano Ronaldo on the left, and though the combination threatened, the finishing touches were lacking.

Bale fired a shot over the bar after six minutes and Sergio Ramos, wearing the captain’s armband after the recent departure of long-serving goalkeeper Iker Casillas, also chipped over three minutes later.

Casillas’ successor in goal, Keylor Navas, was forced to make a fine save in the 30th minute, leaping to his right to put a glove on a Salih Ucan volley after the shaggy-haired Turk latched onto a corner kick from his captain Francesco Totti.

Searching in vain for a goal as the half wound down, Bale tried an audacious bicycle kick in the area but succeeded only in fouling former England defender Ashley Cole.

Bale rose again for a header eight minutes after the break but his effort flashed just right of the near post from a Ramos corner and he came off soon after.

Karim Benzema, who replaced Ronaldo at the break, then squandered a gilt-edged chance from the centre of the box after the hour-mark when his shot soared high and wide after a pinpoint cross from Russian winger Denis Cheryshev.

The match ended in a flurry of shots, with Bale’s replacement Vasquez stepping inside a defender before being denied by a fine save from keeper Bogdan Lobont.

Roma play two-times Premier League champions Manchester City in Melbourne on Tuesday.

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