AS Roma down Real Madrid on penalties at Champions Cup

Melbourne, July 18 (IANS) Italian football club AS Roma edged out Spanish giants Real Madrid via penalty shoot-out 7-6, after the two teams played out a 0-0 draw in their International Champions Cup (ICC) clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) here on Saturday.

Both teams had genuine chances to steal the match throughout the 90 minutes, but it came down to penalties after a lacklustre second half display left the crowd of 80,746 underwhelmed, reports Xinhua.

Neither goalkeeper was able to force a save after the first 12 shots of the shoot-out. But it was Real’s Lucas Vazquez who had his poor strike brilliantly saved by Roma’s Italian goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis, ultimately allowing Roma’s Seydou Keita to calmly convert his team’s seventh penalty, securing the two points to shoot to the top of the table.

The match started in a lively manner and was highlighted by sporadic but punchy forays into the forward halves, however neither team was able to capitalise on the periods of domination they both displayed.

Roma’s Gervinho and Iago Falque were penetrating along the wings; Falque provided clinical delivery to his teammates streaking forward, while man-of-the-match Gervinho’s energy and pace worried the Real defence for most of the first half.

Roma’s best opportunity came in just the fourth minute; a corner went deep causing confusion in the Real defence, the ball ultimately falling to the feet of Daniele De Rossi who pummelled his lunging right-foot shot into the crossbar.

Real had the chance to push ahead in the 26th minute, when a long ball from striker Gareth Bale found Cristiano Ronaldo in stride, however the Portuguese superstar was unable to convert.

Roma then piled the pressure on Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas. In the 29th minute, Roma captain Francesco Totti forced a risky cross when he could have taken the ball.

Totti was subbed at the half-hour mark, after which the Spanish giants tried to take the ascendancy; Dani Carvajal missed a long shot that forced movement from De Sanctis. That was followed by an unwieldy bicycle kick attempt from Bale in the middle of the box.

After the break, German star Toni Kroos was lively for Real, as was Frenchman Karim Benzema, but they couldn’t capitalise, while Roma’s Alessandro Florenzi provided dash down the wings.

The match dropped in tempo during the middle period of the half. Neither team was as penetrating as they were earlier, perhaps a sign of fatigue as both teams had only arrived in Melbourne days before.

Danilo Da Silva, Kroos, Lucas Silva, Isco, Benzema and Nacho scored easy penalties for the Spanish team, while Miralem Pjanic, Adem Ljajic, Destro, Florenzi, Iturbe and Leandro Paredes converted for Roma.

Vazquez then had a stuttered approach, kicking his attempt too straight, allowing De Sanctis to make, ultimately, the match-winning save. Keita drilled his penalty past Navas to secure the result for Roma.

Roma manager Rudi Garcia was satisfied with the result, praising his team’s determination to use the match as a genuine hit-out before the Serie A competition resumes later this year.

Meanwhile Real manager Rafael Benitez was upbeat about his side’s performance, despite the result going the other way.

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