Real Madrid may have won their first trophy of the season but it does not compensate for their woeful league form. This victory was their first of the season after four games, but Barcelona still lead Madrid by five points at this early stage. José Mourinho’s open admission that he was bitterly disappointed by his side’s poor start clearly affected the players, and come the end of the campaign, a Supercopa victory – a trophy described by the Special One as the least important of the season – will not soften the blow should Barcelona steal their league title. Two games do not define a season but nonetheless a great response to the Getafe defeat from Real. The hard work really begins from now if Madrid are to catch Barça.
Pre-game speculation centred on Madrid’s defensive frailties but a string of errors from the normally impeccable Barcelona instead allowed Los Blancos to grab the trophy. Javier Mascherano gifted Madrid their first goal after he mistimed his clearance and allowed Gonzalo Higuaín to finish. Another long ball caused problems for Barça as Gerard Piqué hesitated and Cristiano Ronaldo took full advantage, superbly flicking the ball forward with his heel and shooting powerfully underneath Víctor Valdés. Adriano’s red card for hauling down Ronaldo compounded Barcelona’s misery as Madrid looked to wrap up the game until Lionel Messi’s magical free-kick.
Barcelona registered just one shot on goal in the first half as, for once, they were on the wrong end of a dominant performance. Madrid thwarted the usually lethal strike force and isolated Messi to perfection with two banks of four converging on him as soon as the ball dropped into the final third. Andrés Iniesta and Xavi barely gained possession and were not allowed to conjure up any chances whatsoever. You have to wonder why Tito Vilanova refrained from sending on David Villa, instead favouring Alex Song and Cristian Tello. For Madrid, the task was too easy, especially when Alexis Sánchez was removed following Adriano’s sending off as Messi and Pedro became standing targets to mark. The high line Madrid played worked to perfection as the midfield were too far back to create sufficient attempts. Mourinho’s tactics worked again and Messi had, by his standards at least, a below-par game.
Previously rivals at Arsenal and Tottenham, Alex Song and Luka Modrić remain ardent enemies following their summer transfers to Spain. Both midfielders made their debuts for their new clubs but only one would go on to get their hands on the Supercopa. Former Tottenham man Modrić was the lucky one as Madrid won the tie on away goals and the diminutive Croatian walked up to collect perhaps the easiest medal of his career. His 10 minute cameo was unspectacular yet memorable as Song’s wait for a trophy continues. Perhaps he has brought Arsenal’s trophy curse along with him.
ENHANCED ODDS: Get 2/1 on England to beat San Marino