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Tello, Xavi i Iniesta, celebrant el tercer gol contra el Madrid. FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.

The first clásico of the season, the Spanish Supercup first leg, saw Barça win by the odd goal in five on a night where the old cliché about football being a game of two halves held very true indeed. It was a tactical battle of wits until the 58th minute, and from that moment on, was frenetic end-to-end football at its very best.

Barça started the game playing sensible football at the back and keeping hold of the possession in midfield, but they fail to produce much effect over the final metres, where Real Madrid had set up a rock solid camp.

And after doing very little of note in just under an hour at the Camp Nou, Real Madrid found themselves a goal up. But maybe that that was the wake-up call Barça needed. Pedro scored straight from the restart and there were two more goals to follow. Barça looked home and dry, but a freak goal with six minutes to go means the Supercup is anything but decided.

Mutual respect

The strategic element came into play before a ball had been kicked, particularly with Tito Vilanova and José Mourinho opting to pit Adriano and Callejón against each other down the wing. As if playing chess, both teams started cautiously. Barça had the ball and Madrid sat back and observed their every move, picking their own moments to pounce, just like they did the last time they met, in La Liga last season. Piqué in particular was majestic as he cut down the first few Madrid advances, and Barça gradually gained in confidence and started pushing deeper and deeper into rival territory, seeking to lure out the opposing defenders and thus create more space for manoeuvre.

The siege begins

Madrid did create moments of intense and sometimes effective pressure, but Barça soaked it all up and stuck to their passing game, biding their time and waiting for their moments, the first of which came when Alves broke free in the 19th minute to then find Messi, but not even the best footballer in the world can hit the target every time. After half an hour, Barça had enjoyed an astounding 80% of the possession, but it was only then that they really started producing anything to seriously trouble Casillas. In the 29th minute, another Messi effort went begging, and shortly after, Casillas dealt well with a Pedro strike. Barça were in complete control, while Madrid often spent entire minutes doing nothing but chase helplessly after the ball. The Camp Nou was loving it.

Just before the break, Alexis and almost everyone else in the stadium was screaming for a penalty following a Ramos tackle in the area on the Chilean. The cries went unheeded, but Barça were still by far the happier team after the first 45 minutes. Now it was just a case of turning the chances into goals.

Heroic reaction

It was largely a case of more of the same after the restart but all that changed in the 56th minute, when Cristiano Ronaldo nodded home a corner. The goal came against the run of play, but at the same time, totally changed the pace of the game. A matter of moments later, Pedro equalised after meeting a truly delightful long ball from Mascherano. The Camp Nou exploded, and the game came buzzing into life. With an all-important away goal in their favour, Madrid found new confidence. Gone was the lethargy they had displayed throughout the first hour, but it would be Barça who struck next. Andrés Iniesta found himself deep in the Madrid area, and was brought down clumsily by Sergio Ramos. The referee had no option but to indicate the penalty spot. Leo Messi made no mistake, and after 69 minutes, Barça were 2-1 up.

Moments later, Xavi and Iniesta produced the move of the night. With their team down to nine men while Pedro received attention on the sidelines, the two combined to break though the whole Madrid defence, Iniesta slotted the ball home, and things were set up nicely for Barça in next week’s second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Moment of madness

For the remaining minutes, the only unresolved issue seemed to be how many goals Barça were going to win by. But the course of the whole tie may have been changed by what happened in the 84th minute. Madrid had never looked more vulnerable, and Messi found himself well positioned to make it 4-1. But Casillas managed to get in the way and in the ensuing counter attack, the ball ended up at the feet of Victor Valdés. The Barça keeper failed to clear the ball in time, and an opportunist Di Maria seized the moment to pull an all-important goal back for Real Madrid. Given the way they had played, it was a cruel blow for Barça. The Catalans still go to Madrid next week with a one-goal advantage, but will know that they deserve to be going with much more than that.


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