x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Real Madrid and Barcelona locked in Super Cup stalemate

Spanish giants draw first-leg 2-2 at the Bernabeu as the two bitter rivals kicked off the new Primera Liga season.

Cristiano Ronaldo, left, shoots on goal during Real Madrid's 2-2 Super Cup first-leg draw with Barcelona at the Bernabeu.
Cristiano Ronaldo, left, shoots on goal during Real Madrid's 2-2 Super Cup first-leg draw with Barcelona at the Bernabeu.

MADRID // Real Madrid and Barcelona drew 2-2 in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday in front of 80,000 fans at the Bernabeu as the two bitter rivals kicked off the new season.

Mesut Ozil gave Real a 13th-minute lead before David Villa and Lionel Messi put Barcelona ahead at the break.

The Spanish and European champions then celebrated their interval advantage by announcing that they had finally agreed a deal with Arsenal to end their long-running pursuit of Cesc Fabregas.

But Real took a little shine off the news when Xabi Alonso levelled the tie nine minutes into the second half.

Barcelona boss Josep Guardiola, who remains unbeaten as manager at the Santiago Bernabeu, remained cautious over Wednesday's second leg.

"We hope that with our crowd we will have an advantage," he said. "I'm satisfied with our efforts tonight, but they were dangerous.

"We have had a limited time together with some players only back training a matter of days. Dani Alves, Abidal and Adriano kept us in it at times so I am especially happy with them."

Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas was pleased with Real's performance.

"We've played well, passed the ball around and we're happy, little by little we're getting there, we'll go to Barcelona to try and win the trophy," he said.

In the build-up, Guardiola described the game as "a final against our strongest rival".

That made his starting XI all the more surprising with Gerard Pique, Xavi Hernandez, Sergi Busquets and Pedro all on the bench, the first three carrying slight injuries and the latter replaced by new signing Alexis Sanchez.

None of Jose Mourinho's summer signing started for Real who fielded the same XI that lost 5-0 to Barcelona in the Primera Liga last season.

This however was a different Real Madrid.

After eight minutes, a close range Karim Benzema header produced a superb fingertip save from Victor Valdes.

Real's efforts were rewarded with the first goal as Ozil cooly slotted home with his right foot after good work on the right from Benzema.

At this stage Real were dominating with Barca struggling to implement their usual passing game.

It was not until the 35th minute that the Catalans managed their first attack and from nowhere Villa equalised with a curling right foot shot from the left hand edge of the penalty area.

Real responded with the better attacking play and Cristiano Ronaldo shot high from wide left on 44 minutes.

It was Barca however who then went ahead.

Messi took advantage of defensive mistakes by Pepe and Sami Khedira to stroke the ball into the net in first-half injury-time.

The second half started slowly until Xabi Alonso equalised on 53 minutes with a low driven shot from just inside the area after Barcelona failed to clear a corner.

Ronaldo tried on a number of occassions to conjure up a winner for the hosts and Messi came close with a free-kick 12 minutes from the end for the Catalan side.

However neither team looked likely to win the game in the final minutes, with both content to keep possession and play down the clock.

Jose Maria Callejon and Fabio Coentrao appeared in the second half to make their Real Madrid debuts while Xavi, Pique and Pedro came of the the bench for Barcelona.

All should find themselves involved at some stage on Wednesday when the first title of the season will be decided.