This evening’s highly anticipated match-up at the Santiago Bernabeu between the legends of Real Madrid and Juventus ended as a hard fought 2-1 victory for the hosts.
Luis Figo showed no signs of rust despite four years away from professional football as he gave Los Blancos the lead on six minutes via a curling effort from outside the penalty area.
Paolo Montero finished off a slick Bianconeri move on the hour mark to restore parity but Ivan Perez found the back of the net for Real five minutes later to seal a 2-1 final scoreline.
A truly momentous sporting occasion in Madrid saw a whole host of European football greats take to the field at the same time, including former Ballon d’Or winners: Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Pavel Nedved and Fabio Cannavaro.
Although many years have passed and some grey hairs have begun to emerge, the two groups of players provided 85 minutes of spectacle and proved to the crowd of 70,000 in attendance that class is permanent.
The hosts began the ‘Corazon Classic Match 2013 Veracruz’ in the driving seat and Figo made their dominance count with six minutes on the clock when his powerful right-footed strike from 20 yards out nestled into the bottom corner of Stefano Tacconi’s net.
Nedved came close to drawing level midway through the first half but his effort flashed agonisingly wide of the post with the Real Madrid keeper beaten.
The players were not the only legends present on the field of play this evening as six-time ‘Referee of the Year’ Pierluigi Collina was the man tasked with officiating the match. The 53-year-old called a halt to the first half after 40 minutes to give both sides a well earned additional five minutes of rest before the second period.
A significant change of personnel at the half-time interval saw Fabio Cannavaro switch shirts and emerge wearing the white of Real Madrid. Los Blancos continued to assert their control on the match after the restart and almost doubled their advantage when Figo broke away down the left flank on the counter attack. The Portuguese midfielder attempted to chip Angelo Peruzzi but saw his effort thwarted at the last moment via an outstretched hand from the Juve veteran.
Peruzzi’s opposite number in the Real Madrid goal, Bodo Illgner, also displayed great reflexes and athleticism minutes later down the other end of the pitch. The former German international shotstopper was at full stretch as he tipped Edgar Davids’ long range effort onto the crossbar and behind for a corner kick.
Just past the hour mark, the Bianconeri attacking players rolled back the years and produced a trademark goal to restore parity to proceedings. Nicola Amoruso released Nedved on the right side of the area and the Czech man squared a pinpoint pass back into the path of Paolo Montero, who tucked away a clinical finish. As a central defender, he rarely found the back of the net during his playing days and so, despite the game’s official billing as a ‘charity friendly match’, the 41-year-old celebrated as though it were the Champions League final.
However, Real were not knocked off their stride and they restored their lead soon after by producing an almost identical play to the one that had just seen Juve draw level. Butragueño slipped an intelligent pass in behind the Bianconeri backline and the ball was then squared back to Ivan Perez, who was presented with a tap in from six yards out.
With 15 minutes left to play and the scoreline reading 2-1, one of the stars of the show for Los Blancos, French midfielder Zidane, exited the field of play, only to re-enter the action moments later wearing the black and white stripes of Juventus.
Both sets of players began to tire and the remainder of the encounter was played out in a friendly spirit. The most important aspects of the evening were the extraordinary camaraderie between the two European greats and the evident party atmosphere at the Santiago Bernabeu.
At the blow of the final whistle, the crowd took advantage of this rare opportunity to afford a generous and extended round of applause to both sets of legends as they saluted these great champions once again.