Barça took a good result from tonight’s Supercopa first leg at the Bernabeu despite being under the cosh for periods of the game. Before the game many commentators had said that Real Madrid were in better shape for the game, though I have to admit I wasn’t convinced of the truth of this. However, Pep Guardiola decided not to risk Busquets, Piqué and Xavi from the start as they were still not totally recovered from the knocks playing for Spain, and we also saw our South American quartet of Alves, Adriano, Mascherano and Messi all starting despite Adriano being the only one who had played a few minutes of the preseason, and I think it is fair to say that they did not look completely fit yet.
So, perhaps it was no surprise that Madrid, playing with the tried and tested first XI from the start of last season, should begin the game more strongly. Barça showed a little imprecision here and there and the Madrid players were obviously hungry. At first I wasn’t too worried, pleased to see Madrid play a more attacking game, thinking this would leave them more open at the back. Madrid had a couple of off-target efforts that didn’t worry us but then in the ninth minute Ronaldo swung in a cross from the left and Benzema got away from Abidal and leapt above Adriano to head down a header that bouncing up looked to be a sure goal until Valdés sprung brilliantly to make a splendid save as the ball headed towards the roof of the net. Any goalkeeper will tell you that it is the bounce in front of you that is most difficult and Valdés really pulled off a top notch save here. Madrid were encouraged and just four minutes later a long ball up our left side found Benzema who held the ball up drawing Abidal, and fatally Mascherano, toward him, Ozil made the run for the gap and Keita didn’t stay with him, Benzema duly squared for Ozil to stroke the ball past Valdés.
It was not looking good, Ronaldo had another low shopt easily saved by Valdés soon after but then the chances dried up as we slowly started to try and settle into our game though Madrid managed to stop a lot of breakaways with a number of tactical fouls until eventually Khedira was booked for a pull on Thiago. This booking may have been important as Khedira had four fouls against him already, he would need to be more careful after this and perhaps this is why Barça came into the game a bit more. Messi had been very quiet but in the 36th minute he managed to make himself a bit of space before sending the ball out to Villa on the left, Villa cut in towards the edge of the area before letting fly from more or less the corner of the penalty area with a wicked shot that dipped over Casillas into the far corner.
The goal for Barça was somewhat out of the blue and Madrid looked as if they couldn’t believe it, and then Madrid came forward again in search of the lead they thought they deserved though Benzema twice failed to get a shot in thanks to tackles from Adriano and then Mascherano. With half time approaching Ronaldo fired one over the bar, and at this point most culés would have been happy to hear the half time whistle but there was still time for Leo Messi to amaze us with another piece of magic. Receiving the ball 30 yards out he held off a terrific challenge from the beefy Khedira before skipping past the floundering Pepe and leaving Casillas on his backside flapping his arms at his defenders for the seventh time at the Bernabeu and for the eleventh time in all clasicos.
Madrid must have felt well and truly mugged, and we began the second half looking more like Barça with some decent possession football. However, Madrid are made of pretty stern stuff and the fact that they have kept faith in a manager for a second season will lead to more consistency and I’m sure we they will be a close rival this season. In the 54th minute they won a corner and when it came into the middle Pepe got possession with his back to goal before laying it back to Alonso to hit a crisp side footer past Valdés into the far corner.
Valdés had been in excellent form but a couple of minutes after Alonso’s equalizer he misread a cross and we were lucky to see Benzema’s header go right across the goal with nobody to finish. Valdés was back on song with more saves from Ronaldo and Benzema as Madrid pushed for a winner. Barça had little luck with breakaways though it always looked possible that we could sneak another goal. Then with seven minutes remaining Valdés failed to hold a high cross and then from the floor he raised an arm to trip Ronaldo who was chasing to recover the ball. It was difficult to see for the ref and this time we got away with it. To make things even Marcelo lunged into Pedro in the 87th minute but I think the ref decided there was no way he was going to give Barça a penalty after the other one on Ronaldo.
Obviously we can be happier with the result than with the performance but I certainly don’t think we should be too concerned with this if we consider the way the teams prepared. Hopefully our players are being prepared to peak at the key points in the season. I was encouraged by Alexis who looks pretty tricky and hard-working too but if there was a negative for me tonight it was Thiago who didn’t perform at the level of the preseason games. We have three days to improve before the second leg though we will be favourites to lift the trophy after this result.
Oh, and just in case you hadn’t heard: Cesc Fabregas will be presented tomorrow. It’s all official bar the final signing
Real Madrid: Casillas; Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo; Khedira (Callejon m58), Alonso; Ronaldo. Ozil, Di Maria (m54 Coentrao); Benzema (Higuain m80).
Barça: Valdés 8; Alves 5.5, Mascherano 6, Abidal 6, Adriano 5.5 (Piqué, m62, 6.5); Thiago 5.5 (Xavi m58, 6), Keita 6, Iniesta 6; Alexis 6, Messi 7, Villa 6.5 (Pedro m72, 6).
Goals: m13 Benzema 1-0, m36 Villa 1-1, m45 Messi 1-2, m54 Alonso 2-2
Yellow cards: m32 Khedira, m55 Alexis, m72 Alonso, m91 Coentrao