- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 1, 2009

SEVILLE, Spain | Defensive discipline and two goals on set pieces nullified the attacking flair of Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid.

Juventus downed Real Madrid 2-1 in the Peace Cup semifinals Friday to advance to Sunday’s championship game, where it will face Premier League club Aston Villa.

On the dusty, torn-up field at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, there was no love lost between two titans of the game who have accumulated 11 European Cup titles. Ronaldo, the reigning world player of the year, displayed his dribbling skills on both flanks early on. The partisan crowd roared every time the $131 million man touched the ball.

But Juventus got the ideal start when defender Fabio Cannavaro, a former world player of the year, headed home Alessandro Del Piero’s free kick in the fourth minute. Cannavaro, who led Italy to the 2006 World Cup, recently left Real Madrid after three seasons.

Juventus clearly appeared to be the fitter team, having played two more preseason games.

“Juventus is a very defensive team, and they had the luck of getting goals early in both halves,” Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini said. “We have to improve our tactics because all the goals we have conceded in preseason have come from set pieces.”

Ronaldo tied it in the 40th minute, scoring from the penalty spot after Raul was pulled down. It was his second goal in a Real Madrid jersey, both from the penalty spot.

The second half began just like the first, with Del Piero setting up a goal from a set piece four minutes in. This time Hasan Salihamidzic headed home Del Piero’s corner kick to make it 2-1.

Raul nearly tied it up when he hit the post a minute later. French star Karim Benzema, another of Real Madrid’s bid signings this summer, put shots wide before he was replaced by Gonzalo Higuain, the club’s top scorer last season. Ronaldo’s presence faded in the second half; he drifted out of the game on the right flank. When he missed badly on a free kick, it was clear his lack of fitness was catching up to him.

In the other semifinal, Aston Villa powered its way to the final with a 2-1 win against Portuguese champion FC Porto in Malaga on goals from Emile Heskey and Steve Sidwell. American goalie Brad Guzan started his second consecutive game; American right back Eric Lichaj earned his third start on the trip to Spain.

This is the third time an English club has reached the final of the Peace Cup, which is sponsored by the Sunmoon Peace Football Foundation, a corporate sister of The Washington Times. Tottenham Hotspur won in 2005; Bolton was the runner-up in 2007.

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