Real Madrid impresses in 2-0 win over Celtic at the Linc

Christiano Rinaldo and Real Madrid beat Celtic 2-0 at Lincoln Financial Field. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Christiano Rinaldo and Real Madrid beat Celtic 2-0 at Lincoln Financial Field. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Posted: August 12, 2012

It may have only been the preseason for Real Madrid, but one of the world's top soccer powers showed it meant business during an exhibition tour in the U.S.

The four-game tour, part of the World Football Challenge, concluded with Real Madrid's 2-0 win over reining Scottish champion Celtic, on a humid Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.

Thus Real Madrid appears ready to begin defense of its Spanish La Liga title. League play begins for Real Madrid on Aug. 19.

Despite the usual festive attitude of an international competition of this variety, a somber scene occurred in the 72d minute when Dylan McGeough of Celtic was knocked out while going for a head ball. His head caught the shoulder of Real Madrid midfielder Nuri Sahin.

McGeough eventually was taken off the field by stretcher. After the game, Celtic team manager Neil Lennon said that it was believed that McGeough had a fractured jaw.

"He may need surgery I am not sure but he was in distress obviously and in shock as well," Lennon said. ". . . It puts a damper on the week as far as we are concerned with the injury to Dylan and we will see the extent and hopefully he will make a quick recovery but facial injuries are very unpredictable."

On the field, it has been a successful preseason tour for Real Madrid, which went 4-0, beginning with a 5-1 win over the defending Major League Soccer champion Los Angeles Galaxy on Aug. 2 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. That was followed by a 2-1 win over Santos Laguna at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Aug. 5. On Wednesday, Read Madrid scored a 5-1 win over A.C. Milan at Yankee Stadium.

It was quite a preseason tune-up for Real Madrid.

"We feel pretty comfortable whenever we come [to the U.S.]," Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso said. "We've come here for three years in a row and that's a good sign, because it means we have great support."

Not to mention great talent.

Not so impressive was Saturday's attendance of 34,018. Just last July, Real Madrid beat the Union, 2-1, in World Football Challenge even at the Linc before a crowd of 57,305. The Union's impact on that day's attendance couldn't be minimized.

The Real Madrid headliner is forward Cristiano Ronaldo, usually in the conversation when the top players in the world are discussed.

With quick feet and quicker moves, he is one player who can make fans gasp and defenders panic. In the 32d minute he had an excellent scoring chance, stopped on a kick save by Celtic keeper Lukasz Zaluska.

In the 53d minute, teammate Karim Benzema couldn't convert a well-placed Ronaldo cross.

Real Madrid made wholesale substitutions in the 58th minute and Ronaldo was among the players given the rest of the afternoon off.

During the four games on the tour, the 27-year-old Ronaldo had two goals, both in the win over A.C. Milan. Yet he seemed content to distribute to teammates and not dominate the ball.

When the outcomes matter, he's likely to step it up a major notch after scoring 46 goals last year in La Liga play.

In the 22d minute Real Madrid opened the scoring, give-and-go style. Alonso sent Gonzalo Higuain on goal. Gonzalo dropped it off to the trailer, Jose Maria Callejon, who tapped it in.

One other player of note in Saturday's game was Real Madrid defender Fabio Coentrao, who made several dangerous runs, while also not abandoning his defensive duties on the back line.

Real Madrid increased its lead to 2-0 when Benzema gave himself enough separation from defender Adam Matthews before finding the far corner from close range in the 67th minute.

Play was controlled by Real Madrid, which outshot Celtic, 17-4.

"Losing this game against Real Madrid, we can't be ashamed of," said Zaluska, the Celtic keeper. "They are a fantastic team."

Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, or @sjnard on Twitter.

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