Spanish, Mexican soccer clubs play in SF

August 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Candlestick Park was packed Wednesday night for a major soccer showdown -- Real Madrid versus Club America. The top teams from Spain and Mexico were in a pre-season match.

There was no mistaking how the majority of soccer fans felt about the friendly face off.

Spain's powerhouse team, Real Madrid, made its U.S. debut playing against Club America, a team most Bay Area Mexicans consider their second favorite, behind Chivas de Guadalajara.

"It's the Spanish versus the Mexicans. They've always been big rivals," said Marlen Chavez from San Mateo.

That was exactly why promoters brought these two teams together. Real Madrid had the star players and name recognition, while Club America has most of the region behind it.

"These guys are coming right off the World Cup just an amazing opportunity," said youth soccer coach Chris Conroy.

For some soccer fans, this game was about more than just a rivalry, it was about playing at Candlestick Park.

"It means soccer is important all of a sudden and you see the size of the crowd out here it's amazing," said Conroy.

"For them it is an honor to play in the San Francisco 49ers stadium," said San Jose resident Jose Ramirez Jr.

In the end, both sides seemed to be happy with how the game was played.

Higuain lifts Real Madrid past Club America

Score: Real Madrid 3, Club America 2

Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the second half to give Real Madrid a win in coach Jose Mourinho's debut, 3-2 over Club America in an international friendly Wednesday night.

Sergio Canales scored in 34th minute of his Real Madrid debut and Ronaldo, making his first appearance since Portugal's disappointing round-of-16 loss to Spain in the World Cup, scored the game-winner on a curling free kick in the 82nd minute.

"We don't want to win games in preseason, we want to win in the regular season, and this is good practice," Mourinho said through a translator.

Enrique Esqueda pulled Club America even in the 53rd minute, and Vicente Sanchez put the Mexican side ahead in the 61st, with Adolfo Rosinei assisting on both scores.

Higuain tied the score just two minutes later off a lead pass from Ronaldo, and then nearly gave Madrid the lead in the 80th but was ruled offside when he tapped in a looping pass from Esteban Granero.

Mourinho, one of only three coaches to win the UEFA Champions League with two different teams, joined Real Madrid this summer as the team attempts to close the gap with Spanish champions Barcelona. But Madrid didn't need his touch; they simply outclassed Club America for much of the night. Real Madrid built an 11-0 advantage in shots during the first half.

"It was shots from good play, not just getting shots," Mourinho said.

Canales, who came to Madrid this summer from smaller Spanish club Racing Santander, slotted the ball into a wide-open net after being set free by a series of passes, beginning with a 1-2 on the left wing from Karim Benzema to Ronaldo and back again. Benzema then passed the ball toCanales in the middle of the penalty box, and the 19-year-old connected from 8 yards.

The teams traded scoring chances throughout the second half, as Club America often put four players on the attack. Higuain sent a shot in the 70th minute that goalkeeper Armando Navarrete could only parry, but Club America cleared the rebound safely. Three minutes later, Esqueda ripped a volley off a Club America corner kick, but Real's Adan pushed it over the crossbar.

The North American leg of Madrid's preseason tour concludes Saturday with a game against MLS-leading Los Angeles, and several players did not make the trip north from the team's Beverly Hills Hotel headquarters. All five members of Spain's World Cup-winning side -- Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol and Alvaro Arbeloa -- were absent, as were Brazilian star Kaka, Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart and new acquisition Sami Khedira, who officially transferred from VfB Stuttgart during the weekend.

"Some players arrived late and were in worse shape than the others," Mourinho said. "We're very far away from what we can be."

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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