Madrid click when it really matters
Real Madrid 2 Barcelona 1(Agg 4-4, Madrid win on away goals rule): Real Madrid are Spain's Super Cup champions on away goals after a half-hour blitz took them to a 2-1 victory that secured a 4-4 aggregate score. Even Leo Messi could not win this one for Barcelona; his astonishing free-kick gave his side hope just before half-time but as the final seconds ticked down, his shot curled fractionally wide of the post. Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuaín scored the goals. Barcelona were, for the second time in a week, complicit in their demise.
A late gift from Víctor Valdés in the first leg gave Madrid a lifeline. In the 84th minute, Casillas saved from Messi. Moments later, Valdés stumbled over a back pass, leaving Angel di María to score. From 4-1 to 3-2 in the blink of an eye and the nature of this final had changed entirely. Despite scoring the first, Madrid had only had two shots on target all game. But they had two away goals.
They had more shots than that in the opening five minutes here. They had as many goals in the opening 20. The first half hour was breathless. Madrid were swift and direct, steaming at Barcelona, suffocating them. Yet the opening goal was almost ludicrously simple. Pepe's volleyed clearance looped over the Barcelona defence, positioned 40 yards from goal, Javier Mascherano completely missed it, Higuaín controlled on the chest, ran into the area and hit it past Valdés. The game was not even quarter of an hour in and it was not even his first chance: Valdés had blocked the first with his feet.
Soon another long ball, another centre-back, another mistake, the same result. This time it was a pass, at least. Gerard Piqué misjudged the flight of Sami Khedira's delivery and as the ball dropped between him and Ronaldo, the Portuguese improvised to flick it over his head and run into the space behind. Piqué recovered to cover the far post. Ronaldo went towards the centre, his shot squirmed up off Valdés's hand and went in near post.
Barcelona were on the ropes. Pepe had a goal ruled out for pushing Mascherano, then Adriano was sent off for pulling Ronaldo down after another curled ball behind Barcelona's advanced defence threatened to send him clear. Tito Vilanova took off the striker Alexis to maintain four at the back, putting Martín Montoya on the right.
Still Madrid came. Khedira's volley flew into Valdés's hands, Mascherano had to make a superb challenge on Higuaín. But bit by bit, the lead secure, Madrid settled. As they did so, Barcelona advanced. For the first time, they had some of the ball. Montoya, in particular, made progress. And then with a minute to go before half time, Barcelona won a free kick 30 yards out. Messi curled a sumptuous free-kick into the corner. It was 2-1, 4-4 on aggregate.
There was still time for Ronaldo to send a 30-yard shot whizzing just past the post and Di María curled wide. Madrid held the away goals and the man advantage but it became a different game. Barcelona moved the ball, looking for opportunities. Madrid protected themselves, comfortable waiting, and broke fast. With only 10 men, it was always going to be difficult but Barça did craft a couple of chances. Mascherano's pass found Pedro, dashing into the area.
He controlled and struck the ball on the half volley but Ilker Casillas blocked. He did the same when Pedro spun up the wing and into the area. When Messi's clipped assist found Alba racing and he took it past Casillas, Ramos was across quickly. Madrid's new signing, the former Tottenham player Luka Modric came on with seven minutes remaining.Although Higuaín struck a post and Valdés saved from Khedira, Barcelona were not yet out of it. In the last minute, the ball dropped to Messi. Time was ticking away. Now it was gone. Guardian Service