Soccer is known as “the beautiful game,” and there was plenty of sporting beauty on display during Arsenal and Real Madrid’s International Champions Cup clash at FedEx Field Monday night.
But there was also a level of physicality FedEx Field doesn’t usually see unless the Redskins are playing here: a number of hard tackles, penalties, and an intense competitive edge, as if both clubs were fighting for legitimate European silverware.
The first half alone featured the two sides of the soccer coin. There was some truly breathtaking play from both teams, highlighted by Arsenal’s second goal. Alexandre Lacazette set up strike partner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with a lovely back-heel flick, Aubameyang dribbling past Real Madrid keeper Keylor Navas and burying the ball in the net, despite Sergio Ramos’ best efforts to clear the shot off the goalline.
Lacazette sets up Aubameyang with a beautiful back-heel flick 😮 pic.twitter.com/bTjpIvv40G— ESPN (@espn) July 23, 2019
But the opening 45 minutes also featured a rash of fouls and two red cards. Real Madrid defender Nacho was sent off in the ninth minute after receiving two yellow cards, the second being a handball in the Madrid box which resulted in a Lacazette penalty try to give Arsenal the early lead. Arsenal manager Unai Emery said after the match he asked the referee if Real Madrid could be allowed to bring on another player to keep the sides equal, but the official said no.
In a way, Emery got his wish at the end of the half when Arsenal center back Sokratis picked up two yellow cards in the span of two minutes, reducing both teams to 10 men before the halftime whistle. The Greek defender punted the ball across the pitch in frustration after seeing red from the referee to the delight of the Real Madrid supporters.
The second half featured even more fireworks as Real Madrid mounted a comeback. Welsh forward Gareth Bale, who Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has publicly stated he hopes soon leaves the club, scored off a rebound to halve the deficit, Marco Asensio tying the game at 2-2 just minutes later.
In a blink of an eye, Marco Asensio ties it for Real Madrid! pic.twitter.com/c9On6LDKGo— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 24, 2019
While some of the star power left the field as both managers emptied their benches in the closing stages, the two sides continued to give the crowd of 52,000 plenty of eye-catching attacking play to cheer on. In fact, the thrills continued after the final whistle, Real Madrid ultimately winning the match in a penalty shootout.
D.C. United fans got a taste of world-class soccer when English star Wayne Rooney took MLS by storm last year. But Monday's clash between two European giants, their rosters featuring some of the globe's best players in their athletic primes, displayed all the beauty -- and even brutality -- the sport has to offer.
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