Benzema spares Real's blushes with late winner

Shamrock Rovers 0 Real Madrid 1
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The Independent Football

Christiano Ronaldo wore the white of Real Madrid for the first time last night since his record £80m move from Manchester United, playing 45 minutes in a friendly win over lowly Irish side Shamrock Rovers.

But it was fellow big-money signing Karim Benzema who spared Real's blushes, striking three minutes from time against a team who flirted with bankruptcy four years ago and whose highest earner pockets around €1,000 (£850) a week.

"We played against a good team, and I enjoyed playing today," Ronaldo said, adding he still needs to get back into peak fitness. "I'm not 100 percent, but I hope to be 100 percent when we start the season."

His every touch was booed by the 10,915 fans squashed into Rovers' tight ground, where capacity was trebled to see Real's galacticos who had trained for a week on the outskirts of Dublin.

Some tried to catch a glimpse of the World Player of the Year from nearby apartments, many with €190,000 for sale signs attached, roughly what Real's new No 9 earns a week.

The Portuguese winger received a hostile reception and Rovers centre-half Pat Flynn sent Ronaldo clattering to the floor after his first touches had sent him speeding past defenders in trademark style.

With Kaka in Madrid alongside Real's other Confederations Cup representatives and Benzema starting on the bench, Ronaldo provided the only first-half evidence of Real's spending spree of £180m.

Ronaldo drew the biggest cheer of the first half when his free kick went well wide, and when a second effort tamely struck the wall 15 minutes later, the crowds taunts of "Who are ya?" grew louder.

In fact, the best scoring chance in the first half fell to the hosts as Sean O'Connor cut in from the right-hand side before sending a low shot just wide.

Ronaldo played no further part in the second half as new Real coach Manuel Pellegrini made nine changes at half time.

Real looked more dangerous after the break, with Rafael van der Vaart going close twice, the second with a spectacular overhead kick. Rovers arguably had the better second-half chances though as striker Dessie Baker found himself twice with only goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek to beat. But Baker struck one first-touch effort high over the crossbar and lost control of his second chance before he could take a shot.

Former Lyons forward Benzema also had a scuffed shot cleared off the line, but he controlled a long ball expertly and coolly finished in the 87th minute to seal victory.

However, the Rovers coach, Michael O'Neill, said he could not believe how well his team played, considering all bar one are part-timers. O'Neill did not even play his strongest side as Rovers are in the thick of the League of Ireland title race and face leaders Bohemians this weekend.

"The reality is that the lads were disappointed to lose the game and to lose it so late in the game, but they can take immense credit for what they achieved tonight," O'Neill said.

Easy Money: How the clubs compare

*Shamrock Rovers

Average wage: £582 per week

Ground capacity: 7,000

Domestic titles: 15

European titles: None

*Real Madrid

Average wage: £51,455 per week

Ground capacity: 80,354

Domestic titles: 31

European titles: 9 European Cups, 2 Uefa Cups, 3 Intercontinental Cups, 1 Super Cup