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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Ronaldo double saves Real Madrid from more embarrassment


Staff writer

A chastened Real Madrid bounced back from an embarrassing defeat in its first Japan tour match to beat Jubilo Iwata 3-1 at Ajinomoto Stadium on Wednesday, with a dazzling second-half display from substitute Luis Figo entertaining the 34,603-strong crowd.

First-half goals from Raul and Ronaldo either side of a Sho Naruoka strike and a second for Ronaldo in the 89th minute separated the sides.

It was an overall more urgent and committed display from the Spanish giant, prompted in part by Figo's performance.

The Portuguese superstar was likely playing his last game in the famous white jersey before his transfer to Inter Milan or Liverpool.

"If I don't have the chances here (Real Madrid) I'm going to have to move," Figo said. "I'm just happy so many clubs are interested in me."

Real's first goal came at 7 minutes.

Raul created an initial chance for Michael Owen with a clever dummy, the England forward's shot was blocked and Raul followed up with a composed side-foot finish.

Jubilo equalized when Naruoka ran at a backtracking Real defense before unleashing a well-struck shot from 20 meters that fizzed past Casillas in the Real goal.

"Naruoka played well," Jubilo manager Masakuni Yamamoto said. "I hope he gains confidence from his display."

The J. Leaguers slowly gained a foothold in the game with the tricky Naruoka and a tireless Bobby Cullen at the heart of Jubilo's approach play.

Clever play by Michel Salgado on the right set up another chance for Raul on 25 minutes, but the Spaniard fired wide with Jubilo 'keeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi flat footed.

Two minutes later, though, Real regained the lead.

A one-two between Ronaldo and Raul culminated with the Brazilian being bundled over in the box.

He picked himself up to place the penalty kick to the left of Kawaguchi.

Just before half time it was Takashi Fukunishi's turn to shine.

A target for Italian League side Reggina, the midfielder impressed his suitors with a mazy run that bamboozled the Real back line.

The second half belonged to Figo.

The 32-year-old, who replaced Owen, turned back the years with a virtuoso display and it was his exquisite through ball in injury time that found Ronaldo, who had plenty of time to place a shot between the legs of Kawaguchi.

"In the last match, my players were ready to fight," said Real coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo, referring to the spat between David Beckham and Toda in Monday's 3-0 defeat to Tokyo Verdy.

"Today, I told them to be calm. Our objective was for the fans to enjoy the match."

Real now heads to Thailand for the final game of its Asian tour against a Thai All-Star XI in Bangkok on July 29.



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