AC Milan Cristiano Ronaldo

GoalChatter Special Report: Real Madrid vs. AC Milan

2:40 PMGoalChatter

Yankee Stadium © Aleks V 2012

Thoughts on Going to My First Football Match 

On Wednesday, August 8, 2012, La Liga champions Real Madrid took on AC Milan at Yankee Stadium. Fans across the New York area, including myself, were given the opportunity to see two European teams close up. This was the first time I'd been to a football game, and, seeing as how I'm not an avid baseball fan, the first time I'd been to Yankee stadium. Getting to the legendary arena that was once home to the New York Cosmos was part of the fun of itself. The closer the train got to the stadium, the more fans clad in Real Madrid and AC Milan jerseys filled up the wagon. Tens of thousands of spectators poured out onto the streets. The train station was right in front of the stadium, and there were barriers to direct the flow of human traffic toward the entrance gates. After making it to the main lobby, I took the elevator to the upper level, where the Grandstand offered a spectacular panoramic view of the entire pitch. 

Before the game, the stadium blared out familiar pop/rock tunes – everything from Rihanna's Don't Stop the Music to Metallica's Enter Sandman - as the teams warmed up. Key facts and strategies for both teams were announced to the audience, and were subtitled on the smaller LCD screen. A few ads familiar to ESPN-savvy footie fans graced the display. Ironically, one of the commercials featured Messi playing basketball. 
Real Madrid players complete their warm-up. © Aleks V 2012
AC Milan Keys to the Game:
- Need a strong game from #32 Christian Abbiati
- Need offensive creativity

Real Madrid Keys to the Game:
- Defending La Liga champs
- Unmatched offense

The players to watch for AC Milan included goalkeeper Antonio Cassano, who had a terrific Euro 2012 campaign, forward Robinho, who proved he is still a great player, and midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, who had the potential to step up his game. The players to watch for Madrid included midfielder Mesut Ozil, who led in La Liga assists last season, and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, known to be "a rock in goal".

When the game finally began, the crowd had quieted down. Perhaps that sounds like a strange thing to say with regards to a football match, but until either team made a run with the ball, the arena was only mildly talkative. Milan had a few moments here and there, but mostly played a defensive game, especially after conceding their second goal to Madrid. Aside from the one defensive mishap that led to Milan's only goal, Real Madrid fulfilled and, at times, exceeded expectations. Cristiano Ronaldo was there to make the runs with the ball. His impressive dribbling skills were visible even from afar. Mesut Ozil skillfully took the corners for Madrid, Di Maria was brilliant as a goal-scorer, and even Ricardo Kaka, who came on the pitch as a late substitution for Di Maria, made his mark by assisting three of the night's goals. It is rumored that Kaka may be heading back to AC Milan, where he spent most of his career and played behind retired Ukrainian legend Andriy Shevchenko.
Madrid takes a corner. © Aleks V 2012
AC Milan players try to get the ball past Madrid's defense. © Aleks V 2012
Aside from having a more realistic view of the pitch, there were a few other differences between watching a game on a TV or computer screen and seeing it in person. The main difference, of course, was the atmosphere. It is one thing to sing your national anthem from the comfort of your couch and quite another to stand up among fifty thousand other people and take part in one of America's oldest and finest traditions. It's fascinating being surrounded by so many fellow fans in jerseys, waving their flags for a full 90 minutes or simply celebrating their team's goal-scoring moment. The environment was pretty safe, too – none of the fans got too out of hand, something that is seen all too often at many league games. One of the things I'll take away from the game is that rare feeling of unity that presided over the arena. It's no wonder Jose Mourinho himself complimented Yankee Stadium. In a post-match interview, he said "the stadium was packed with fans and people that feel a special connection to the team because they don't live in Spain." The arena opened its doors to 49,474 lucky fans, the record attendance for the World Football Challenge.
© Aleks V 2012
© Aleks V 2012
The Special One also addressed a question pertaining to a fan-made banner proposing him for president of the United States. “It must have been a friend of mine doing propaganda”, he remarked.
At the end of the day, no one could deny that Real Madrid did what they do best. The team displayed their technical brilliance, picking up crosses from the other side of the pitch and posing a danger to the opposition in both set pieces and during regular play. There's no doubt they'll see one of their finest seasons in La Liga. 

Real Madrid vs. AC Milan - 5:1

Herbalife World Football Challenge
Match date: August 8, 2012 (8pm EST)
Arena: Yankee Stadium, New York


1:0 Di Maria ('24) 1:1 Robinho ('33) – Asst. Nocerino/Cassano
2:1 Cristiano Ronaldo ('49) – Asst. Diarra
3:1 Cristiano Ronaldo ('66) – Asst. Kaka/Higuain
4:1 Sergio Ramos ('81) – Asst. Kaka
5:1 Callejon ('89) – Asst. Kaka
Man of the Match: Cristiano Ronaldo 

*For more photos of the match, check out my portfolio.

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