Legendary figures of Juventus and Real Madrid turned on the style this evening in Turin, giving supporters a night to remember as the first edition of the UNESCO Cup began with a bang.
With all proceeds going towards the support of child soldiers affected by conflicts in Mali and the Central African Republic, both sides entered into the spirit of the occasion by producing an exciting affair that more than lived up to its blockbuster billing.
From Ciro Ferrara to Edgar Davids, Paolo Montero to Pavel Nedved and Mauro Camoranesi to Zinedine Zidane, the Bianconeri legends delighted their adoring faithful on an evening where standing ovations and generous applause ruled supreme.
In the end it was Real who emerged victorious by a 5-1 scoreline, with each and every one of their goals, in particular Clarence Seedorf’s second-half thunderbolt, earning widespread appreciation from those in attendance.
A lively start to proceedings saw Nedved and Juan Esnaider have early efforts on goal as both sides tested the waters, yet it was Real who soon began to impose themselves in and around the final third.
Los Blancos thought their moment to open the scoring had come on 10 minutes when Fernando Morientes bundled his way into the box and wrong footed Moreno Torricelli, only for Stefano Tacconi to deny him with a solid block from point-blank range.
An even more promising opportunity fell into the striker’s path eight minutes later, but Ciro Ferrara was on hand to pull off a fine piece of defending by nicking the ball away from Morientes when the striker seemed odds on to tap into an unguarded net.
Back came Juventus, who, either side of a spectacular overhead Ciro Ferrara goal-line clearance, fashioned two clear-cut opportunities to edge their noses in front, both of which fell to Nicola Amoruso.
First a combination of Pedro Contreras and the crossbar denied his close range header before the goalkeeper performed further heroics to thwart a fierce volley that appeared destined to burst the back of the net.
Despite the Bianconeri enjoying a fruitful spell in the final third, it was in fact Real Madrid who broke the deadlock on 32 minutes. Christian Karembeu’s cross from the left picked out Morientes, and the legendary Los Blancos frontman did the rest by nodding past Tacconi.
After being denied a second by the woodwork, Morientes assisted Zidane in finding the second Real had pushed for, the midfielder showing his undisputed class by breaking into the box before dragging the ball past Pietro Verchowod and tucking a crisp finish inside the near post.
Juventus did not let their heads drop though, and immediately pulled one back when Alessio Tacchinardi turned the industrious Angelo Di Livio’s cross into the bottom corner moments before half-time.
The start of the second period brought a moment of joy for the black and white supporters: Zidane in his famous number 21 shirt alongside Davids at the heart of midfield.
Also joining the action from the bench at varying stages were Antonio Chimenti, Paolo Montero, Mark Iuliano, Zoran Mirkovic, Igor Tudor, Manuel Dimas, Angelo Alessio Fabrizio Ravanelli, Christian Vieri, Sergio Porrini and Michele Padovano.
On 65 minutes, Seedorf restored the visitors’ two-goal cushion courtesy of a spectacular volley which flew into the top corner from 25 yards and drew applause from an appreciative crowd.
Ten minutes later, Real made it four when De La Red converted from the spot following Igor Tudor’s foul in the penalty area, while Ivan Perez squared for Jesus Enrique Velasco to wrap up a 5-1 victory for Los Blancos.
At the final whistle, UNESCO’s Eric Falt spoke of the important role football has to play in spreading inclusive social values, before handing the trophy to Real Madrid captain Fernando Hierro.
The sportsmanship and respect on display from both sides throughout perfectly embodied the principles that lie at the heart of UNESCO’s mantra.
And these very same principles will continue to be endorsed as the United Nations agency and Juventus persist with their efforts in breaking down social barriers in sport.