There were questions about whether this year’s International Champions Cup match between Chelsea and Real Madrid at Michigan Stadium would live up to the expectations placed upon it after the 2014 contest between Manchester United and Real — a game that set the U.S. soccer attendance record with a reported crowd of 109,318 people and featured appearances from Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney.
Saturday’s game, in contrast, had less star power on both sides. For Real, Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema, James Rodriguez and Luka Modric all sat out, leaving Marcelo as the most recognizable player in the lineup. Meanwhile, Cesc Febregas and Diego Costa were out for Chelsea, while Thibault Courtois and Eden Hazard came in as substitutes long after the game had already been decided.
There was also the threat of bad weather looming over Saturday’s contest — Ann Arbor was deluged with rain for most of the morning, with thunderstorms forecasted for the afternoon.
But when 3 p.m. rolled around, the rain had stopped and Michigan Stadium was filled to the brink with fans eagerly supporting their teams, regardless of whether the superstars were on the pitch or not. The 2016 ICC contest drew 105,826 people, good for second on the all-time U.S. attendance record list.
And in the end, even while missing most of its regular lineup, Real Madrid emerged with a 3-2 victory over Chelsea, thanks to the efforts of Marcelo.
The left back opened up the scoring in the 19th minute with a strike from just outside the box, curling the ball past Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Marcelo struck again just seven minutes later, when he made a run down the left side of the pitch, squeezed past two Chelsea defenders and put the ball into the short side of the goal, a display of skill that drew roars of applause from the crowd.
The left back was the catalyst once again for his team’s third goal. Playing give-and-go with his teammate, Marcelo made another run before leaving the ball for his teammate Mariano Diaz — who promptly unleashed a strike from ten yards outside the box into the net.
“Maybe physically, (Marcelo) wasn’t as good as the rest, but in the field he’s been the best,” said Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane after the game. “It’s been a joy to watch him play. Since Montreal, it’s been spectacular to see him. He’s an important player, and as you can see he’s the captain. It’s the captain’s job to give an example. Overall, I’m happy with his match, and ultimately, I think that’s the idea: to get our rhythm back.”
After its listless first half performance, Chelsea outscored Real 2-0 in the second half. Star forward Hazard entered the game in the 67th minute and made his presence known, scoring two goals in the 80th and 90th minutes, respectively.
But for the Blues, it was too little, too late, and Real captured a victory in its second game at Michigan Stadium after a 3-1 loss to Manchester United in 2014.
A day after saying he wanted to see a better performance from his team, it appeared Zidane got his wish.
“Ultimately, what we were looking for was to start strong,” Zidane said after the game. “Overall, I’m satisfied with how the team played. We’re in the preseason, but we’re looking to see something more from the team, and I’m happy with what I saw.
“The team is doing well. We’ve seen the team get better. Obviously, we’re ten days from the Super Cup, but I think what we’ve seen is sufficient to know that we’ll be ready.”