Francesco Totti came up with some trademark magic to give Roma a 1-0 victory over European champions Real Madrid in their International Champions Cup match in Dallas. It was Madrid who dominated the opening half of the preseason warm up at the Cotton Bowl, but 37-year-old Totti’s invention helped set up a chance that he converted with aplomb just before the hour mark.
The win gives Roma their first points of the competition and leaves them in with a chance of making it through to the final if they can beat Inter Milan on Saturday. Madrid, meanwhile, remain on one point and know that their match against Group A leaders Manchester United will be their last in the competition.
In contrast to Totti’s decisive contribution, it was a match bookended by two unsavory incidents. Before kickoff, Madrid defender Pepe seemingly lived up to his reputation with an alleged spit on Roma midfielder Seydou Keita that left the former Barcelona man understandably incensed. Then minutes before the end of the contest, a stream of supporters ran onto the pitch causing a farcical delay of several minutes as the security attempted to clear the field.
Earlier, the first half had been almost all one-way traffic in Madrid’s favor. The pace of Gareth Bale in transition was the chief threat for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, and looked set to score when meeting a square pass from young forward Lucas in front of goal, but, under pressure from Mehdi Benatia, he side-footed wide.
By that point Madrid had already wasted an equally presentable chance when Sergio Ramos produced a poor header off target from an in-swinging free-kick from Luka Modric. Still, Madrid’s dominance continued against a Roma side looking to bounce back from a 3-2 defeat to Manchester Untied at the weekend. After a water break from the Dallas humidity, Madrid cranked up the pressure late in the period and it took some fine goalkeeping to keep the scores level.
Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski did his reputation no harm with a fine save from a fierce Lucas drive, before Benatia came up with a goal-saving block to deny Pepe on the rebound. Madrid made four changes at the interval, including replacing Iker Casillas with Diego Lopez. Within 13 minutes the substitute had been beaten by a moment of brilliance from Roma’s talisman that put last season’s Serie A runners-up in front against the run of play.
Totti’s initial dummy was worth savoring by itself, as the 2006 World Cup winner allowed Keita’s pass to travel through his legs and onto the overlapping Alessandro Florenzi down the right. Staying alive to the situation, Totti then made his way into the box and met Florenzi’s low cross with a decisive first-time shot past Lopez. The Dallas crowd had seen a master in his element.
It was so nearly 2-0 to Roma just a minute later. This time Totti was the creator with a perfect pull back from the right for Adem Ljajic, but the Serbian attacking midfielder put his finish just wide of the near post.
Other than Totti’s goal and withdrawal from the action soon after, the biggest cheers of the night from the Cotton Bowl crowd came when the image of Cristiano Ronaldo appeared on the big screen. Unfortunately for those in attendance, the Ballon d’Or winner would remain sat on the bench throughout as part of an effort to rebuild his fitness ahead of the new campaign.
Madrid missed their star man. Bale again tried to threaten as his side sought an equalizer, but a constant stream of substitutions after the break and then a slew of pitch invaders ensured the match was prevented from maintaining any kind of flow, allowing Roma to comfortably see out the victory.