The Real Madrid CF faithful saluted a side which had lifted the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and the European/South American Cup in 2002 as the imperious Spanish club's centenary year ended on a high with a 3-3 draw against a world XI featuring a number of the planet's major names last night.
As if to emphasise the side's strengths, Madrid fought back from 3-0 down to salvage a draw in an exciting friendly at a rainswept Santiago Bernabéu stadium. Madrid's younger players battled back superbly after their stars had been substituted, throwing everything at the visitors as the match became more intense and competitive with Madrid searching desperately for the equaliser.
It finally came three minutes from the end when the shaven-headed schemer Esteban Cambiasso scored with a brilliantly struck curling shot from the edge of the box to give the reigning world and European champions a well-deserved draw after creating eight clear-cut chances in the final 20 minutes.
The pre-match hype surrounded Ronaldo's recent haul of awards, and he was presented with one of them, France Football's Ballon d'Or, ahead of the start of play. The Brazilian claimed the prestigious trophy on the back of a tremendous World Cup in which he struck eight goals, though it was another who shone in Korea/Japan, Germany's Miroslav Klose, who opened the scoring with a superb header on the half-hour.
He connected with a perfectly flighted cross from the ever-impressive Roberto Baggio wide on the left, getting to the ball before both defender Iván Helguera and goalkeeper Ilker Casillas and making no mistake with his diving header. A minute later both Baggio and Klose were among the first of the visitors' substitutions and the young Brazilian Kaka, who replaced Baggio, doubled their lead two minutes before the break.
Madrid created several promising openings in the first half but Ronaldo was kept firmly in check by Rafael Márquez and Paolo Maldini and apart from a chance for Raúl González after five minutes and Luis Figo eight minutes later, the home side never looked like scoring.
Despite the pouring rain, a half-time break extended to 25 minutes was enlivened by opera singer and Madrid fan Plácido Domingo's rendition of the club's centenary anthem, accompanied by a full symphony orchestra conducted by Jose María Cano and flanked by the two teams. The players then had to wait several minutes in the rain while the musicians, in full evening dress, trooped off with their instruments and stage set.
Cissé extends lead
The world XI continued to press after the break, and in the 48th minute Aliou Cissé made it 3-0 after more good work from Kaka, who played in the Senegalese midfield player. Madrid pulled a goal back on the hour as Santiago Solari swept in from the penalty spot after Javier Portillo, Ronaldo's replacement, was held by Murat Yakin as he attempted to reach a Fernando Morientes cross.
Tote further reduced the arrears with a simple tap-in on 65 minutes after Albano Bizarri failed to hold Portillo's shot. There than followed a furious finale which eventually provided Cambiasso with an equaliser. Despite the thrilling nature of the match, the football was secondary to the celebration of 100 years of Real Madrid CF - a century in football marked by a record nine European Champion Clubs' Cup successes.
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