Regardless of anything, this was a match I never expected to ever have the opportunity to report upon! Spanish giants, Real Madrid, coming to our humble home swapping a stadium with a capacity of 80000 for one of a 'mere' 12000, even with the new stand - which looked fantastic in the evening sun!!
The match got underway with the Cherries kicking towards the North Stand with the Cherries keeping possession, which prompted a few early cheers!
With many of my friends, including those who support our nearest and dearest along the M27 predicting that Real Madrid would wipe the floor with us with a thumping victory, I was delighted to shut them up with news that for large parts of the opening period of the game we gave as good as we got in all quarters of the pitch. The back four looked strong, the midfield quartet looked dynamic and the pairing of Pitman and Grabban went looking for an elusive goal or two! Clearly the players were well up for up, and so they should be on such an occassion.
The first clear cut chance came from free kick, about 30-yards out, which saw Ronaldo sweep the ball just over the cross bar and behind for a goal kick in the 5th minute.
With the Cherries giving their all, the next chance fell to Brett Pitman, who saw an effort go wide, with Lopez scrambling to make sure his goal was covered!
To be honest it was only a matter of time before Real Madrid took the lead, which came courtesy of a Ronaldo free kick, from a similar position we saw a little earlier. This time, Flahavan was beaten all ends up, with an exquisite free kick which flew in (22nd minute).
The Cherries lost their way a little bit after Pitman was forced off the pitch with a knock in the 27th minute. Perhaps not a great concern at this moment in time, but a precautionary measure. What I was more concerned about is that we suddenly lost our outlet going forward, and were looking less of the threat in the centre of the attack. As much as people might rate Grabban, he can't be in all places at once. Certainly a positional/tactical issue which needs to be addressed before the opening game of the season.
That said though, the Cherries still posed a threat down the wings. I was particularly impressed with Coulibaly down the left wing and Fraser down the right. Coulibaly ghosted past several Madrid players at ease through out his time on the pitch. If anything he made them look rather ordinary. Fraser, on the other hand, did the same at times, but had the opposition guessing which way he was going to go, which left room of colleagues to exploit, which Francis often did! Plenty of attacking wing options for Howe, especially when Pugh and Ritchie come back to the starting eleven.
There was no denying that Real Madrid ARE a class act by any standards. This may have been their first pre-season match in their build up to La Liga, but for all their skill there were times when the defensive duo of Elphick and Cook were more than a match for their opponents with key challenges and blocks to prevent too many more scoring opportunities - which does bode well for the season ahead.
On the stroke of half time, the Cherries shipped two more goals. The first came from a rare defensive mix-up which allowed Ronaldo to round Flahavan for a simple tap in (41st minute). Then two minutes later Khedria scored at the far post from a corner. Should someone have been on the post?HT: 0-3
The second half started as the first had finished, with Real Madrid bagging another goal as a neat ball through split the Cherries defence, allowing Higuain to slide the ball past Flahavan in the 47th minute. The same player was denied a brace when the Cherries defence was breached in the 54th minute, this time Flahavan was more than a match for the fierce shot that was unleashed in his direction.
By this time the Spanish giants were virtually queued up on the edge of the area to take a shot at the Cherries goal. Next to have a crack was Kaka, whose effort from the edge of the area hit the cross bar.
It became 5 when a near post shot from Di Maria managed to avoid several Cherries players before firing low past Flahavan. The final goal came with 7 minutes left on the watch from Casemiro.
Okay we lost 6-0 at home in front of a bumper crowd. But it was one of those matches where the result simply didn't matter. The positives to take from this match were the performances of Elphick, Cook, Francis, Daniels, Coulibaly, and Fraser. On the evening, I thought they were superb in their application. A few rough edges to sort out before the Championship season starts on August 3rd, but we should be okay this season.
My man of the match, by a mile, has to be Mohamed Coulibaly - a joy to watch.
AFCB: Flahavan, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Coulibaly, Arter, MacDonald, Fraser, Pitman, GrabbanSubs: Ward (for Pitman, 27 mins), Hughes (for Cook, 61 mins), Chiedozie (for Coulibaly, 67 mins), Harte (for Grabban 67 mins), Addison (for Elphick, 74 mins), Fraser (for Matthews, 74 mins), Stockey (for Francis, 84 mins), Thomas (for MacDonald, 84 mins), Purches (for Daniels, 84 mins), Jalal (for Flahavan, 84 mins), Wakefield (for Arter, 84 mins).
Real Madrid: Lopez, Carvajal, Nacho, Pepe, Coentrao, Modric, Khedira, Ronaldo, Isco, Ozil, BenzemaSubs: Higuain (for Benzema, HT), Kaka (Isco, HT), Morata (Ronaldo, HT), Di Maria (Ozil, HT)Andy Burton, Portsmouth
Source: Cherries MAD