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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Ronaldo's red card cannot distract from Real Madrid's superb display in beating Barcelona in Spanish Super Cup

The Primera Liga champions will take a 3-1 lead into the second leg on Wednesday at the Bernabeu, and they are well worth that advantage after Zinedine Zidane's side shone in Camp Nou.

Real Madrid's players celebrate after their victory over Barcelona in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. Juan Medina / Reuters
Real Madrid's players celebrate after their victory over Barcelona in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. Juan Medina / Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a superb goal in Spain’s Super Cup first leg, but was quickly sent off after taking his shirt off during the celebration and then diving and shoving the referee.

Ronaldo’s Madrid side still showed why they are the best in the world with a 3-1 win after a strong second half showing on a hot August night at Camp Nou.

As Neymar played and scored in his first league game for Paris Saint-Germain in a tiny Breton town of 7,000, his former team Barcelona welcomed Madrid and an 80,000 crowd.

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Ditching their famous white for aquamarine shirts, Madrid, who kept Ronaldo on the bench as they had done in their European Super Cup triumph against Manchester United last Tuesday, started well in a first half which saw five yellow cards.

Isco and Kovacic were their best players, while Barca’s central defender Samuel Umtiti also impressed.

The crowd, which was largely comprised of tourists including some fans who wore half and half Madrid/Barcelona shirts.

Barcelona empties of locals during August and the Super Cup is the only game in which season tickets are not valid. The shift in demographic also meant that many more Madrid fans were present than a normal clasico where there are only 600 away fans.

Those Madrid fans, spread around the stadium were the first to celebrate a goal after 50 minutes – and it was doubly sweet because it came from the foot of chief Madrid tormentor Gerard Pique after he slid a cross from Marcelo into his own net.

Madrid were ascendant, with Karim Benzema crossing for Dani Carvajal, who saw his shot blocked by fellow full-back Jordi Alba on the goal line to keep his side in the game.

Home fans had more reason to worry when Ronaldo entered the field to widespread jeers after 57 minutes. The Portuguese forward quickly tried an elaborate overhead kick, but his true impact would come later.

His opposite, Lionel Messi, may have scored a record 23 goals in 34 Clasicos, but he had gone six games without a goal in the Camp Nou clasicos, an unwanted run stretching back to 2012.

That looked to continue as Sergio Busquets missed a fine opportunity to equalise when he struck a 74th minute effort over the bar, but a better chance came two minutes later.

A penalty was awarded after Luis Suarez went down without Keylor Navas appearing to make no physical contact. Navas and his coach Zinedine Zidane were outraged, but that did not distract Messi, who netted the spot-kick to level things.

It was Ronaldo’s turn to take centre stage. Running from the halfway line, he stepped inside Pique and curled a stunning shot around Andre Ter Stegen from the edge of the box, a goal he celebrated by taking his top off, flexing his muscles and holding his shirt much like Messi had done when he scored a last minute winner in April’s clasico.

As per the footballing regulations, Ronaldo was booked for taking his shirt off, and that celebration was to prove very costly moments later.

Ronaldo was off the pitch within a minute after being adjudged to have dived in the penalty area by referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea, and after receiving his second yellow card, which led to the red, he compounded things by appearing to push the official in the back before he left the field, somerhing he may face further action over.

He will miss Wednesday’s second leg, but if Madrid can repeat their performance against a listless Barca, they will not miss him too much.

Real's performance was capped when Marco Asensio struck a shot beautifully over Ter Stegen in the 90th minute from 25 yards.

The 21-year-old has now scored on his Primera Liga, Copa del Rey, Uefa Champions League, Uefa Super Cup and Spanish Super Cup debuts for Madrid.

Madrid are overstocked with top quality, Barça looked short of their usual quality and fans hope that Philippe Coutinho will arrive from Liverpool before their first league game next Sunday against Real Betis, but first that ominous second leg in the Bernabeu.

Both team will play in more important matches this year and while Spain’s league champions have won eight of the last night Super Cups, it also showed how much better shape Madrid appear to be in compared to their great rivals.

A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on

“It was a game in which we had some good moments and in which we were caught out on the counter by two great goals,” said the new Barca boss Ernesto Valverde.

His opposite Zinedine Zidane, who becomes the first Madrid boss to see his team unbeaten in his first three games at Camp Nou, praised Asensio but contested the decision to send Ronaldo off.

"Maybe it is not a penalty, but the card is a bit too much,” said Zidane. “We will try and get him with us on Wednesday.” They’re so good that they hardly need him.