February 13, 2019

Madrid Belatedly Hit Their Stride to Sweep Aside ESS

Real Madrid cruised to a comfortable 3-0 victory against an out-of-sorts Etoile Sportive do Sahel, with the Spanish team delivering the kind of dominant performance that had been sadly lacking in their previous matches.

With their long pedigree in the competition, Real had arrived in Qatar as one of the pretournament favourites, but ultimately failed to make an impact. After a promising victory over Spartak Moscow in their opening game, the young Spaniards had toiled during a dour 1-1 draw against Suwon Samsung before succumbing to Kashiwa Reysol in the quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, ESS had conjured a thrilling performance to overcome Bayern Munich in their tournament debut, only to stumble to a 1-0 defeat against Altinordu and then suffer a 7-0 trouncing at the hands of Rangers.

So for both sides, it was a case of unfulfilled early promise, and pride was very much at stake as the teams took the field on a blustery National Sport Day in Doha. Perhaps the conditions played a part in an unspectacular opening to the game, and it was 15 minutes before Madrid manufactured the first chance, when Peter Carmona’s lofted ball found Andri Gudjohnsen, whose fierce, first
time effort from the edge of the area flew narrowly over.

Moments later Real went ahead, and Carmona was again instrumental, after Raul Cerqueda played a slick one-two with him before slotting home.

On 25 minutes, ESS almost levelled thanks to a fabulous piece of individual brilliance from Yassine Khabthani, who latched on to a halfcleared corner on the edge of the area and firing in a looping half volley that grazed the crossbar. It was to be the Tunisians’ only clearcut chance of the first half and, just before the interval, Madrid doubled their lead. The lively Carmona was the architect once more, playing in Fernando Rufo, whose cross-shot nestled in the corner.

As the second half got underway, Real began to turn the screw, carving out a succession of opportunities as the traffic became one-way in the direction of the ESS goal. The best of these chances saw Cerqueda go close with a free kick from range on the hour mark, with his effort just too high. It seemed only a matter of time before they extended their advantage, and Gundjohnsen duly made it three on 63 minutes, after Lorenzo Herrera got in behind the ESS defence down the right and cut back for the tall striker to apply a simple finish.

With 15 minutes remaining, Carmona came close to claiming the goal that his impressive performance warranted when he robbed Yosri Gandouz on the edge of the area and beat keeper Ahmed Slimen with a low shot that struck the inside of the post and somehow stayed out.

As the final whistle approached, Mohamed Fallah almost scored a consolation goal for the Tunisians with a superb solo effort. Madrid keeper Marcos Lara’s clearance was picked up by the ESS captain 40 yards out, and he danced through the opposition defence before unleashing a powerful low shot that narrowly missed.

Madrid can at least take some comfort from the fact that this game allowed them to demonstrate the quality running through their squad. Fifth place is still very much within their grasp. For ESS, however, they will need to rediscover their early form to avoid finishing eighth.