In its first match since walking off the field in Milan with the European Cup, Real Madrid went down to a convincing defeat at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain to kick off its tour of the United States and preparations for the new season. Missing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos and going up against a side with two preseason fixtures already under its belt, Zinedine Zidane's side was distinctly second best in front of huge crowd at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
The sluggishness from the Spanish giants in its first contest of the International Champions Cup was evident inside two minutes. Teenage PSG midfielder Jonathan Ikone showed why the club was so keen to tie him down to a long-term contract this summer, with an electric run and finish, albeit with a heavy helping hand from a series of hapless Madrid challenges.
PSG, led by new coach Unai Emery was missing Marco Verratti, David Luiz, and new signing Grzegorz Krychowiak, and suffered a blow when losing captain Thiago Silva to injury after only 11 minutes. But the Brazilian's replacement was to twice extend the French champions' advantage before the first half was out. In just his second appearance in a PSG shirt, following on from his outing in a 3-1 win over Inter Milan in Oregon on Sunday, new signing Thomas Meunier made a sizable early impression.
First the Belgium right-back slammed a shot into net from 25 yards after being presented the ball from a sloppy pass out of the back from Madrid. And then, five minutes before the interval, he made it 3-0, beating Madrid's backup goalkeeper Kiko Casilla after the ball came back to him from a cut out cross.
Real Madrid's early defending left plenty to be desired, not least that of Marcelo, whose performance embodied the early rustiness in a side whose league season doesn't begin until Aug. 21. But the Brazilian left-back did at least reduce Madrid's arrears right before halftime, slamming home a penalty after Serge Aurier was penalized for handling Isco's cross.
If there was a degree of unfamiliarity to Real Madrid's first-half lineup, with Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Pepe and Karim Benzema also missing, the second half saw a host of Castilla team players handed a chance to impress. Zidane made a full 11 substitutions at halftime, including bringing on his son Enzo and much-discussed Norwegian 17-year-old Martin Odegaard.
Given that PSG only made two changes at the break and one of those was to bring on former Madrid midfielder Angel di Maria, the Parisians might have been expected to run away with the game yet further. But Zidane will be pleased with the way many of the players he coached with the Castilla before stepping up to take the main job last season acquitted themselves against such established opposition.
Still, PSG did have its chances. And there might be some concern in the PSG ranks that Edinson Cavani failed to find the net with a string of opportunities. The Uruguayan has now finally got the role he so desired as the main man up front for PSG following the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but he continued a worrying propensity to fluff his lines in front of goal.
Also struggling to make a positive impact up front was Alvaro Morata. Playing his first match in a Real Madrid shirt in more than two years after being bought back from Juventus earlier this summer, the Spain international will have done little in his 45 minutes on the pitch to convince Zidane that he warrants a prominent place in his plans for the coming season.
Still, for all involved there remains plenty of time to fine tune their games before the real business gets underway.