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Ronaldo makes quiet Real debut

CRISTIANO Ronaldo wore the white of Real Madrid on Monday for the first time since his record move from Manchester United, playing 45 minutes in a 1-0 friendly win over lowly Irish side Shamrock Rovers.

But it was fellow big-money signing Karim Benzema who spared the Spanish side's blushes, striking three minutes from time against a team which flirted with bankruptcy four years ago and whose highest earner pockets around 1,000 euros (US$1,426) a week.

Ronaldo's every touch was booed by the 10,915 fans squashed into Rovers' Tallagh Stadium, where capacity was trebled to see Real's Galacticos who had trained for a week on the outskirts of Dublin.

Some tried to catch a glimpse of the world player of the year from nearby apartments, many with 190,000 euro for sale signs attached, roughly what Real's new No. 9 earns a week.

The Portuguese received a hostile reception and Rovers center-half Pat Flynn sent the winger clattering to the floor after his first touches had sent him speeding past defenders in trademark style.

With Kaka in Madrid alongside Real's other Confederations Cup representatives and Benzema starting on the bench, Ronaldo provided the only first-half evidence of Real's big spending spree of more than 200 million euros.

Despite resting five leading players, the hosts matched their opponents in the first half, allowing only fullback Marcelo a clear sight at goal.

Ronaldo drew the biggest cheer of the first half when his free kick went well wide and when a second effort tamely struck the wall 15 minutes later, the crowds taunts of "who are ya" grew louder.

Ronaldo played no further part as new Real coach Manuel Pellegrini made nine changes at halftime.

Former Lyon forward Benzema was among the changes and after having a scuffed shot cleared off the line, he controlled a long ball expertly and coolly finished in the 87th minute to seal victory.

Rovers arguably had the better second-half chances as striker Dessie Baker found himself twice with only goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek to beat. But Baker struck one first-touch effort high over the crossbar and lost control of his second chance before he could take a shot.

"We played against a good team, and I enjoyed to play today," the 24-year-old Ronaldo said, adding he still needs to get back into peak fitness. "I'm not 100 percent, but I hope to be 100 percent when we start the season."

Rovers coach Michael O'Neill didn't play his full starting squad because Rovers are in the thick of the league title race and face leaders Bohemians this weekend.


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