Raul Strike Not Enough As Real Madrid Held By Al-Ittihad In Peace Cup

The Blancos showed glimpses of brilliance but they had to settle for a draw to kick-off their Peace Cup campaign...
Real Madrid 1-1 Al-Ittihad

Real Madrid, still trying to find the free-flowing cohesion in the team, were held to a 1-1 draw against Al-Ittihad in their opening 2009 Peace Cup clash.

After a goalless first-half, captain Raul gave Los Blancos the lead on 55 minutes after latching on to Karim Benzema's through ball, turning his marker and dispatching it into the back of the net with typical aplomb.

The Jeddah Tigers, however, restored parity just ten minutes later when Aboucherouane nodded a sweet glancing header past Dudek after connecting with Al Saqri's freekick.

First Half

Madrid started the match in dominant fashion against their less illustrious opponents, with Cristiano Ronaldo receiving a rapturous reception every time he touched the ball. He and Lassana Diarra were heavily involved in the action early on, and on the quarter hour he combined with Benzema and Sneijder, only for the Dutchman to blaze wildly over the bar.

However, Madrid’s early dominance of possession soon petered out, and the Galacticos began to feel frustration as Al Ittihad’s tactics of containment meant space in the final third was at a premium. Goalkeeper Zaid pulled off a stunning save to deny Raul, after the legendary foward swivelled and struck a superb striker that the stopper somehow clawed to safety.

But as the half wore on the Saudi side began to gain a foothold on the match, and just before half-time they should have taken the lead. Jerzy Dudek woefully misjudged a deep cross into the area, but Hazzazi could only nod wide with the goal at his mercy.

It should have been a wake-up call for the Spanish giants, but instead Al Ittihad were making a real go of causing an upset inside the Bernabeu.

Second Half

However, order of a kind was restored at the beginning of the second period when the hosts grabbed the lead, and it was their inspirational captain Raul who found the target.

The striker held off Alshamrani after being played in by Karim Benzema and drove the ball home from the penalty spot to give Madrid the advantage.

Many would have expected Al Ittihad to fold after going behind, but instead they used the goal as a spur to be more adventurous in their opponents half, and deservedly equalised ten minutes later.

Al Saqri whipped a dangerous free-kick into the area, and Aboucherouane out-jumped Fernando Gago to power the ball into the net – an unexpected shock was on the cards.

Pellegrini rung the changes, bringing on Robben, Higuain, and Granero as his side chased the winning goal, but it was Al Ittihad who once again created the most clear-cut chance. Goalscorer Aboucherouane went through one-on-one with Dudek but rushed his shot and it whizzed past the post.

Madrid expected piled on the pressure in the closing moments, but Al Ittihad held on to their eternal credit and restored some of the pride that had been battered following their dreadful display against LDU Quito. Madrid, however, must go back to the drawing board before their final group match.

Paul Macdonald, Goal.com

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