Pep Guardiola’s Barça played seven times at the Santiago Bernabeu without ever losing. Half an hour into Tito Vilanova’s first Bernabeu game, tonight’s Spanish Supercup 2nd leg, and it looked as though Barça were going to be onto a hiding as Real Madrid took a two-goal lead on the night through goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Cristian Ronaldo, and Barça were then reduced to ten men when Adriano was sent off after 28 minutes.
However, Barça showed an excellent spirit to pull a goal back through Leo Messi’s 30-yard free kick just before half time, forcing a thrilling finish to the game. In the end it was too much to ask, though efforts from Martin Montoya and Messi in injury time had merengues biting their nails till the final whistle.
It was finally decided not to take any risks with Carles Puyol’s cheekbone and Tito Vilanova named the same XI as in the first leg at Camp Nou. However, in the warm-up before the kick-off Dani Alves suffered what appeared to be a hamstring injury and he had to be replaced by Jordi Alba who came in at left back with Adriano switching to the right. The last minute change can not have helped Barça but for the first five minutes we didn’t seem to be affected as we played a fast-moving possession game as Madrid snapped at our heels. In the 6th minute Pedro, who was playing on the left, got in a dangerous cross and Alexis appeared to be shoved by Ramos as the cross came in, however, referee Mateu Lahoz waved play on.
José Mourinho had been forced to bring in Marcelo due to Coentrao’s suspension but he did have Pepe back in central defence, he made two other changes to the first leg with Di Maria and Higuain coming in for Callejon and Benzema. In the 7th minute Madrid created the first chance of the game when Marcelo slipped the ball through to Higuain and Valdés did very well to save with an outstretched left foot.
The warning didn’t seem to worry Barça too much and we continued to move the ball around well. However, in the 11th minute Pepe hoofed a long ball from the back, Mascherano was forced to turn and as the ball came down over his head he made a critical misjudgement and missed his clearance, allowing Higuain a clear run through to shoot home through Valdés’s legs.
From the first Madrid goal Barça seemed to go into shock and there was a twenty-five minute spell where we were taken apart. Mascherano got booked within a couple of minutes of Higuain’s goal for obstructing Di Maria, and soon after Marcelo fired across the face of the goal but just wide. Then in the 19th minute Piqué failed to deal with a long ball and Ronaldo managed a remarkable back heel flick that looped the ball forward and the Portuguese forward controlled the ball as it came down, Valdés managed to get a hand on the low shot but it wasn’t enough to see the score move to 2-0.
Higuain might have added a third soon after but Valdés saved again with his feet, then in the 28th minute another ball sent in behind our defence, this time got Adriano in a mess, and as he struggled for the ball he brought down Ronaldo, and Mateu Lahoz had no hesitation in pulling out the red card.
At this point Barça looked well and truly doomed and it would not be exaggerated to say the possibility of a severe humilliation was looking on the cards. Khedira had a volley straight at Valdés, and Mascherano had to make an excellent tackle to deny Higuian. Tito reorganised, bringing on Montoya for Alexis, and Barça switched to a 4-1-3-1 with Pedro, Xavi and Iniesta in a line behind Messi.
Little by little Barça started to get a foothold. In the 37th minute we created a first moment of doubt for the Madrid defence when Iniesta cross was just out of Montoya’s reach at the far post. A few minutes later Iniesta fired in a shot that was deflected for a corner, then in the 44th minute we earned a free kick, 30 yards out, when Alonso fouled Xavi. Messi and Xavi lined up to take the kick and it was the Argentinian who sent a brilliant curler with power around the wall and inside Casillas’s right-hand post. It was a truly splendid strike to mark Messi’s 15th goal against Madrid which beats Cesar Rodriguez’s previous record of 14.
Before half time there was stil time for Ronaldo and Di Maria to have efforts fly just wide, but with the 2-1 score at half time there was restored hope for culés. The second half began much more calmly as neither side wanted to concede again. Despite playing with ten men Barça were still having slightly the better of possession though we were not finding much penetration going forward.
In fact, both teams were keeping the ball for longer periods when they had possession but neither side managed a shot in the first 15 minutes of the half. Barça had to be patient but the moment nearly came in the 62nd minute when Mascherano sent a long ball forward and Pedro controlled brilliant to eek out a shot but Casillas was there to save.
Pedro was in action again soon after, turning away from Ramos to sprint from the wing into the area but the angle was tight and Casillas blocked the shot by his near post. The game now started to come back to life with chances at both ends. Valdés had to make another stop to deny Khedira who’d got past Mascherano.
As time ticked on Madrid began to look more nervous. Iniesta tried his luck from 50 yards but his shot went well over, then in the 76th minute Messi sent a fine ball through for Alba, but it was difficult to keep control at such speed and as Alba tried to take the ball wide of Casillas the ball ran away from him just enough to allow Ramos to intercept.
It was Barça’s best period but in the final ten minutes Madrid might easily have added another, and Mascherano did just enough to force Higuain to shoot against the outside of the post. Tello mishit a half chance wide after Iniesta’s dribble into the area and with a minute left on the clock Valdés saved again from Ronaldo. As the game went into three minutes injury time Modric had a chance blocked with Khedira shooting wide from the rebound,
In a last push forward Messi put Montoya through on the right, but the full back allowed the ball to run which narrowed his angle and Casillas saved at his near post. There was still time for Song, who played a pretty decent 15 minutes, to find Messi on the edge of the area but his shot flew a foot wide of the post.
It wasn’t to be, but it was some pretty exciting stuff at the end and we should be proud that we pushed Madrid to the very last minute playing with ten men. However, there have to be question marks over what happened to our defence during those 25 minutes in the first half. It is not the first time any of our players had played at the Bernabeu so you would not think they would be intimidated at all. Even so, the number of individual errors is worrying, hopefully we won’t see another howler from Valdés for some time, but the mistakes from Mascherano, Piqué and Adriano were not usual from these players and we’ll just have to hope it is just one of those things that any player can make a mistake and we just happened to get a bad mistake from four different players over the two Supercopa games.
We’re back to the league now on Sunday at 9.30 pm with a game at home to Valencia.
Real Madrid: Casillas; Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Alonso, Khedira; Ozil (Modric m84), Di Maria (Callejon m79), Ronaldo; Higuain (Benzema m82).
Barça: Valdés 7; Adriano 5, Piqué 6, Mascherano 6, Alba 6; Xavi 6.5, Busquets 6 (Song m75, 6.5), Iniesta 7; Alexis 5.5 (Montoya m32, 6), Messi 7, Pedro 7 (Tello m82, –).
Goals: m11 Higuain 1-0, m19 Ronaldo 2-0, m45 Messi 2-1
Yellow cards: m13 Mascherano, m20 Pepe, m37 Arbeloa, m49 Piqué, m62 Khedira, m72 Alonso.
Red Card: m28 Adriano