Barcelona Sweat it Out in Madrid

August 15, 2011

FC Barcelona drew the first leg of the Super Cup 2-2 at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid on Sunday night. Barça spent long periods of the match on the back-foot, suffocated on a sultry night by relentless Real Madrid pressure. Los Blancos opened the scoring with a smart Özil finish, but Barcelona equalised and then took the lead via a fine Villa strike and an opportunistic finish by Lionel Messi.

Xabi Alonso levelled the score ten minutes after the break, side-footing home from the edge of the area. Although there were some rugged tackles from Real Madrid, the match was played in good spirit, and on Wednesday night Barcelona fans could get to see Cesc Fábregas make his first senior appearance for his boyhood club.

Two strong lineups took to the field in Madrid – Alexis Sánchez made his debut, starting on the right wing for Barcelona, while Xavi, Puyol and Piqué took their place on the Barça bench. Real fielded a more positive XI than in the Clásicos towards the end of last season – Cristiano Ronaldo, Di Maria, Benzema, Ozil and Alonso all started for Los Merengues.

The first 30 minutes were difficult for Guardiola’s men; Real Madrid were pressing hard, forcing mistakes from every one of Barcelona’s defenders. Macherano and Abidal looked particularly uncomfortable, and on the few occasions that they managed to get the ball to a midfielder, possession was surrendered in the face of packs of white shirts. Xavi was sorely missed.

Indeed, it came as no surprise when Real Madrid took the lead; Benzema made a powerful run in from the right, and threaded a delicate squared pass for Ozil, who dispatched a tidy finish to the right of Valdés.

Barcelona continued to struggle until Villa netted a spectacular equaliser, which came almost out of the blue. The Asturian forward found some rare space, pulled in from the left and smashed a swerving shot over Casillas into the very top right corner of the goal.

The second Barcelona goal came just before half time and was another smash and grab. Messi was first to react to a loose ball, shrugged off Pepe, and swept the ball home to hand the away side an unlikely lead going into the break.

The second half saw more pressure on the Barça goal, although Madrid’s pressing was now a little less concerted. Their equaliser came in the 54th minute, after Benzema teed up Alonso who placed a smart shot into the bottom right corner from just outside the area.

Valdés was the busier of the two ‘keepers as the game went on, but neither side would again find the net. Both teams had legitimate penalty shouts denied in the closing stages – Valdés appeared to reach out and trip Cristiano as he chased a ball away from goal, while Pedro was floored in the Madrid area by a clumsy Marcelo challenge.

And while the second half was underway, news of an agreement for Cesc Fábregas filtered through from London and Barcelona, finally bringing to an end a three-year transfer saga.

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