By CAITLIN MURRAY
BERKELEY, Calif. — UEFA Champions League’s title-holder Real Madrid is clearly a superior squad to Inter Milan on paper. But with Real Madrid missing a batch of starters, including Cristiano Ronaldo, and Inter Milan seeming to push like Saturday’s friendly was a serious matchup, a stalemate after 90 minutes seemed fitting.
Inter took the win on a shootout, 3-2, with goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo playing hero after two saves in the clubs’ opening match of International Champions Cup, following a full-time 1-1 deadlock in front of a 62,583 sellout crowd.
It was a second half penalty in an increasingly physical match that handed Inter Milan the equalizer to force the shootout, but Gareth Bale’s early strike stood as the match’s highlight.
“We want to win the tournament, but the most important thing is to prepare right for the season,” Bale told reporters after the match. “We have a long season this season. It’s not nice to lose but the important thing is we got match fitness.”
Real Madrid will be competing for six titles this season: La Liga, Champions League, Copa del Rey, Club World Cup, Spanish Super Cup and UEFA Super Cup.
Despite tournament organizers announcing Thursday that Real Madrid would be joined by Ronaldo and the group of players who had appeared at the World Cup — including goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric — the starters stayed behind. Ronaldo was reportedly in Las Vegas the day before the friendly and new signing James Rodriguez won’t join the team until next month.
Inter was also missing a batch of key players, including World Cup participants Fredy Guarin, Hernanes, Ricky Alvarez, Rodrigo Palacio and Mateo Kovačić.
Bale stole the show in the 10th minute with a sailing strike from some 30 yards out to put Los Blancos up after Pepe forced a turnover and dished it to the Welshman.
“I told the young guys that with a team like Real Madrid that has won so much, they still give a friendly summer tournament a lot of importance,” said Inter coach Walter Mazzarri. “The tournament is an important aspect of preparation for the season, so both teams played hard just like it was the beginning of the season.”
The meeting was surprisingly physical for a friendly, with Inter seeming to push harder once behind. A scuffle in the 47th minute saw Madrid’s Raul de Tomas yellow carded for a near-fight with Inter’s Dodo as other players got involved, setting the tone for the rest of the match.
In the 68th minute, a shove from Madrid’s Ruben Sobrino drew a penalty and Mauro Icardi easily converted with a delicate floater past goalkeeper Diego Llorente, tying the score.
A minute earlier, Inter had one of their better efforts to equalize denied as Yann M’Vila blasted a shot, forcing a lunging block from Llorente, who tipped it over the crossbar.
“For us there isn’t any difference between a friendly and matches that count something because every match is crucial and every match is a chance to improve the team,” said Inter midfielder Rene Krhin. “Today our team was very aggressive and we gave 100 percent.”
International Champions Cup rules called for a penalty shootout to decide a winner at the 1-1 fulltime result. After Omar Mascarell shot wide putting Real Madrid behind in the shootout, Icardi took advantage to score the winning PK.
Los Blancos controlled the game early, but Inter pushed back in the second half – the teams ending the day even in shots on goal at five. Inter outshot Madrid, 20 to 12.
Next up, Inter Milan will face Manchester United on Tuesday in Washington D.C. while Real Madrid will meet AS Roma in Dallas.