x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The gloves are off already as Barcelona triumph over Real Madrid in Super Cup

Lionel Messi's late winner earned Barcelona their 10th Spanish Super Cup after a dramatic 3-2 victory over bitter rivals Real Madrid that ended with players and staff from both clubs fighting on the Camp Nou pitch.

Cesc Fabregas, right, did not have to wait long to win his first piece of silverware with Barcelona after a late Lionel Messi goal earned them the Spanish Super Cup against Real Madrid.
Cesc Fabregas, right, did not have to wait long to win his first piece of silverware with Barcelona after a late Lionel Messi goal earned them the Spanish Super Cup against Real Madrid.

BARCELONA // Lionel Messi's late winner earned Barcelona their 10th Spanish Super Cup after a dramatic 3-2 victory over bitter rivals Real Madrid that ended with players and staff from both clubs fighting on the Camp Nou pitch.

Messi volleyed Adriano's cross past Iker Casillas in the 87th minute to finish off a move started by recent arrival Cesc Fabregas, who made his Barcelona debut as a late substitute and helped his new club to a 5-4 aggregate win.

But a dramatic, up-tempo match in which Messi scored two goals and Real twice rallied to equalise descended into a fracas in injury time as tensions on the hot, humid night reached a climax after a nasty challenge by Real defender Marcelo on Fabregas.

Players pushed and shoved each other after the ugly tackle in front of the benches, with Real coach Jose Mourinho appearing to poke Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova in the eye during the melee.

After the players and coaching staff were separated and three red cards were brandished, Barcelona lifted a record-equalling third straight Super Cup and a first in five attempts against Real. That gave Pep Guardiola his 11th major piece of silverware, equalling Johan Cruyff as the Catalan club's most successful coach.

Guardiola praised his "mythical" players, labelling the victory an "honour" and a "privilege."

"For a pre-season game to be played at this level? That was enormous," Guardiola said. "Even when we won 5-0 against them last year I never thought we were so superior. It's always been a very difficult match-up for the history between the clubs."

Barcelona displayed all the verve of the beautiful game that won them the Primera Liga and Champions League triumphs last season while Real showed no capitulation after being held to a frustrating 2-2 draw in the first leg at the Bernabeu.

"I won't say we're not happy about not winning the Super Cup because that would make me a hypocrite. I'm very happy with the evolution of the team," said Mourinho, who brushed off questions about his on-field actions. "The teams are well balanced."

Despite Cristiano Ronaldo nearly putting the visitors ahead in the opening seconds, Barcelona scored first as Messi slipped a perfect through ball for Andres Iniesta to chip over the goalkeeper Iker Casillas for the 15th-minute opener as Barcelona's pinpoint passing — led by playmaker Xavi Hernández — exploited the space between Real's defensive lines.

The Madrid club stormed back five minutes later as Ronaldo steered Karim Benzema's low cross beyond goalkeeper Victor Valdes for the Portugal forward's first goal in his fifth visit to Camp Nou.

Messi then capped a superb Barcelona move in the 45th as Gerard Pique sent a short back-heel pass inside the box and into the path of the Argentina forward who continued his run toward the right corner before sending a shot back over Casillas and inside the far post.

Real recovered and, soon after Sergio Ramos headed wide, Benzema was in a perfect poaching position to equalise again in the 81st.

But Messi capped the spectacular and spiteful match with his record eighth Super Cup goal to move two ahead of former Real striker Raul Gonzalez as all-time leading scorer in Spanish football's curtain-raiser. The match may be the only one in Spain for a few weeks with threat of a strike delaying the start.

"We controlled the game but in the end we were missing a bit of luck and couldn't manage to kill it off. Obviously we're not happy but we leave with good sensations," Real midfielder Xabi Alonso said. "This is just the start, there's still nine months of competition to go."

Fabregas, who joined from Arsenal on Monday, was given a warm welcome after coming on in the 83rd minute but was quickly initiated into the ferocious series in the sixth match between the clubs since April.

Marcelo was shown a red card for his challenge and teammate Mesut Oezil and Barcelona striker David Villa soon followed before the Catalans celebrated the victory.

"It's a great moment especially against Real Madrid," Fabregas said. "It's the biggest derby in the world and I am very happy to be a part of it."