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Ronaldo, Ozil lead Real Madrid past Everton at Dodger Stadium

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The Canadian Press
8/3/2013 11:51:16 PM
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LOS ANGELES -- The first soccer game played at Dodger Stadium finished with one of the sport's most familiar results: an impressive victory for Real Madrid.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the 17th minute and set up Mesut Ozil's goal 14 minutes later, leading Real Madrid to the final of the International Champions Cup with a 2-1 victory over Everton on Saturday night.

Ronaldo and Ozil starred in soccer's debut at the 51-year-old stadium, keeping Real Madrid unbeaten in preseason friendlies this summer.

In preparation for soccer's arrival in Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers flattened their pitchers' mound and spread temporary grass over the infield and warning track, creating a workable pitch for a doubleheader in front of an enthusiastic Southern California crowd that enjoyed a well-played exhibition.

"It was a little bit strange because we didn't play in a football stadium, but the atmosphere, the tradition of this stadium is outstanding," Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said.

"To be in this stadium with such fantastic history is a great thing for us ... and I was pleased with our performance."

Second-half substitute Nikica Jelavic scored in the 61st minute for Everton, which gave a solid challenge to the Galacticos. Tim Howard, Everton's American goalkeeper, made a handful of brilliant saves to spark chants of "U-S-A" in the crowd.

"Both teams were trying to feel each other out, and it's tough to assess results this early," Howard said. "It felt good out there, though. It felt loud. It felt electric. We had a good time."

The inaugural International Champions Cup matches seven European teams and MLS' Los Angeles Galaxy in an exhibition tournament.

The final is Wednesday night in Miami, where Real Madrid will face the winner of Chelsea's meeting with AC Milan outside New York on Sunday.

Just two weeks away from the season opener in La Liga, Real Madrid had more than enough talent to overcome Everton. The Toffees reached the semifinals earlier in the week with a surprise win in San Francisco over two-time defending Serie A champion Juventus, which faced the Galaxy in the second game.

Dodger Stadium has hosted the Beatles, a papal Mass, eight World Series and 52 Dodgers seasons, but had never converted its baseball-specific field into a soccer pitch.

One sideline began just outside the right-handed batter's box and stretched right to the edge of the warning track near the right-field pole, 330 feet away from home plate.

Even with nearly every good seat in the majors' largest ballpark selling for $85 or much more, a solid fan contingent greeted both teams.

Everton's Catalan coach, Roberto Martinez, acknowledged the game was a valuable chance to test the Toffees against the world's best. While his team looked good for stretches, particularly around Real's net, they repeatedly were caught scrambling when their offside trap was beaten.

"It was a fantastic game for us," Martinez said. "We were very disappointed in the first half, how effective we allowed Real Madrid to be on the counterattack, but that's about the only area where we were disappointed. I thought we kept the ball very well against one of the best teams in the world."

While Ronaldo was the crowd's favourite, German national team midfielder Ozil was named the man of the match.

Ronaldo broke between two defenders for a golden chance in 10th minute, but the Portuguese star tried to volley Sergio Ramos' long lead pass and booted it well over Howard's goal.

Ronaldo scored when poor marking and a sharp pass from Ozil left him alone in Everton's end, where he faked Howard to the ground and tapped home a long shot for the first goal in Chavez Ravine history.

Everton had plenty of early chances as well. Marouane Fellaini's header glanced off the post in the 24th minute, and Sylvain Distin's apparent goal on a header six minutes later was waved off for a foul in the box.

Ronaldo and Ozil then slipped behind Everton's defence again to retrieve an excellent chipped pass from Luka Modric, with Ronaldo putting a pass on Ozil's right foot for another goal.

Ronaldo left for a substitute 13 minutes into the second half. Moments after Howard made a dramatic leaping stop, Everton answered when Steven Naismith headed a crossing pass back into the middle for Jelavic, whose flying kick rattled between goalkeeper Diego Lopez and the post.

Soccer at Dodger Stadium (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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