Real Madrid technically walked away with the trophy at this year’s International Champions Cup 2015 Australia, but there was a real spreading of the wealth as far as wins and impressive pre-season moments were concerned. Spread across three games at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the International Champions Cup Australia played out like a round robin group stage style competition between Real, Manchester City, and AS Roma.
Things to Prove
All three soccer clubs arrived in Melbourne for the International Champions Cup with a thing or two to prove. For Real Madrid, the International Champions Cup Australia marked an initiation of sorts for new manager Rafael Benitez. The Vikings hadn’t played a single match since the end of the 2014 – 2015 La Liga season and the subsequent dismissal of coach Carlo Ancelotti, meaning that all eyes were on Real Madrid in Australia during the second half of July.
For Manchester City, the stakes didn’t feel quite as high, but there was still the matter of Raheem Sterling. The Sky Blues paid £49 million for the 20-year-old forward after a lengthy back and forth with Sterling’s old club, Liverpool FC. The International Champions Cup 2015 in Australia would see Sterling donning the Manchester City home shirt 2015 – 2016 for the first time in a competitive setting, and one of the big questions of the tournament was whether or not Manchester City would get an immediate return on their hefty investment.
As for AS Roma, many fans are hoping that the Italian soccer club might be able to challenge Juventus for the Serie A title this year. Strong performances in the International Champions Cup would kick-start Roma’s momentum going into pre-season play, and hopefully help the team to establish themselves as league title contenders for the 2015 – 2016 campaign.
Real Madrid vs. Roma
Interestingly, Roma got a leg up in the International Champions Cup proceedings first. In his inaugural match as the Real Madrid manager, Rafael Benitez had to settle for a last-minute loss against Italy’s runner-up soccer squad.
The July 18th Real Madrid versus Roma match did yield plenty of excitement, however. The two teams were remarkably evenly matched throughout, with the score remaining deadlocked at 0-0 for the 90 minutes of regulation time, as well as for the 30 minutes of extra time.
It all came down to a spectacular penalty kick shootout, with both football teams landing each of their first six shots in the goal, before Madrid’s Lucas Vazquez missed his club’s seventh shot. Roma’s Seydou Keita netted a seventh shot for his team to give AS Roma an early triumph in the International Champions Cup.
Roma vs. Manchester City
Roma was only slightly less successful three days later in a fixture against Manchester City. Raheem Sterling scored three minutes into the match (his first match with the Sky Blues), though an undiscouraged Roma team equalized the score just five minutes later. By the end of extra time, Roma had worked their way to yet another draw—this one at 2-2—and forced yet another penalty shootout.
For a moment, it looked as if AS Roma were going to pull out a second win and clinch a victory in the International Champions Cup 2015 Australia, all in one fell swoop. The Wolves hit their first four penalty shots perfectly, while Manchester City missed their second (a shot taken by defender Aleksander Kolarov) to fall behind early. But two consecutive misses for Roma on kicks four and five gave City an opening, and perfect kicks from goalkeeper Joe Hart and 19-year-old midfielder James Horsfield gave the Sky Blues a surprise win.
Manchester City vs. Real Madrid
The Sky Blues donned the Manchester City home shirt 2015 – 2016 on July 24th to finish out the International Champions Cup with a match against Real Madrid. This time, though, Raheem Sterling didn’t find the back of the net within the first five minutes.
Instead, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Pepe all scored in the first half to give the Vikings a 3-0 lead, and while Yaya Toure cut into that lead with a goal right before halftime, Real Madrid ultimately won the game 4-1. Since the match was the only outright victory of the three, the Vikings won the ICC 2015 Australia on goal difference.
Still, all three teams proved what they came to Melbourne to prove: Rafa Benitez showed that he and his team could perform well under pressure (and rack up the goals), AS Roma showed that they can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with two of the best football clubs in Europe, and Manchester City showed that their big summer transfer wasn’t a misguided decision, as Sterling scored just three minutes into his first match ever with the football club.
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