LAS VEGAS - The game-winning goal was nothing short of
bizarre, but Real Madrid still managed to stay unbeaten
through two games of their North American tour Sunday
night, knocking off Mexican champions Santos Laguna 2-1 in
Herbalife World Football Challenge action at Sam Boyd
Xabi Alonso opened the scoring in the 14th minute, Cristian
Suárez pulled one back for Santos and Sami Khedira scored
the game-winner with his face as Real Madrid followed up
Thursday's 5-1 victory against the LA Galaxy with a
slightly less dominant performance in front of 29,152 fans,
many clad in the green and white of Los Guerreros.
Jose Mourinho played a mostly first-team lineup in the
first half, sending out the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo,
Mesut Özil, Xabi Alonso, Fábio Coentrão, Gonzalo Higuaín
and Iker Casillas, while Santos made one change from
Friday's draw vs. Puebla with local product Herculez Gomez
leading the line.
Full Highlights: RM 2, CSL 1
With temperatures hovering above 100 degrees at kick off,
both teams took the better part of a quarter of an hour to
acclimate and get a feel for each other before putting
together a truly incisive move.
But despite the understandably lethargic start, one small
opening was all it took for Real Madrid to open the scoring
with a flash of quality. After a mix up at the top of the
box, Álvaro Arbeloa laid the ball off for Xabi Alonso, who
curled his right foot around the ball and into the bottom
corner from 30 yards.
That strike seemed to spur the Spanish champions forward,
and Ronaldo nearly fed Higuaín just a minute later, but the
Argentine whiffed from 10 yards out after receiving a
brilliant chip from his running mate. Just two minutes
after that miss, Higuaín took his turn setting up a
teammate, playing a neat one-two with Özil before driving a
low cross across the box that the German sprayed wide.
But Santos held on and eventually pulled a goal back
against the run of play that shifted momentum in their
favor. With space to exploit on Madrid's right flank,
Daniel Ludueña picked out a streaking Suárez, who drove
into the penalty area, shifted the ball from his right to
his left boot and slammed a shot past Casillas at the near
post to even things at 1-1.
From there, Santos took their turn applying pressure. Gomez
had two chances in quick succession, but his attempt to
catch Casillas off his line was well over goal and he
couldn't find the back post after latching onto a through
ball behind the Madrid backline. Suárez also went wide
after Darwin Quintero picked him out with a diagonal ball
from right to left.
At halftime, Mourinho made the predicted wholesale changes,
sending on a new 11 that included Kaká, Karim Benzema,
Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Khedira and Lass Diarra, while Santos
stayed with the same lineup that finished the first half.
Almost immediately, Benzema and Kaká began combining to
great effect, with the Frenchman sending a point-blank
effort over the bar before forcing a diving save from
Santos 'keeper Oswaldo Sánchez with an effort from the
top of the 18-yard box. He also played creator, finding
José Callejón unmarked in the box, but the 25-year-old
struck his shot directly at Sánchez.
Gomez broke up Madrid's dominance with a yellow card in the
66th minute, when he drew a deserved caution after bowling
over Pepe. It was the third yellow card of a match marked
by periods of physical play followed by exasperated
reactions, perhaps inspired by the desert heat.
Just six minutes later, Khedira scored the goal that
separated the sides. After a Madrid corner floated all the
way to Benzema at back edge of the penalty area, the
forward whipped a cross across the six-yard box that
Sánchez dove to parry. Unfortunately for Santos, he
deflected it directly into Khedira's face, and it
ricocheted into the back of the net.
Quintero had a chance to even things for Santos, but his
chip was directly into the body of Real substitute
goalkeeper Antonio Adán, forcing the Torreón side to settle
for a narrow defeat.
Real Madrid will continue their preseason tour with a game
against AC Milan at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 8 followed by a
match vs. Celtic in Philadelphia on Aug. 11.