Angel Di Maria barcelona

A Blaugrana Supercopa

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El Clasico is arguably the most highly-anticipated match of any season in football. Fans around the world get to see two of the greatest teams and oldest rivals go head to head. Though more often than not the Clasico brings about more drama off the pitch (including the age-old Messi vs. Ronaldo comparison), the game has not lost a bit of its flavor. If anything, today's match showed that neither Barcelona nor Madrid are showing any signs of slowing down. Since taking over Barcelona's managerial post, former assistant Tito Vilanova has followed in the footsteps of famed Barca coach Pep Guardiola, who announced his resignation at the end of last season. After 4 years of working at the club, Guardiola helped Barcelona earn 14 trophies, an unheard-of record.

Though the game seemed pretty equal at first glance, it was the home team that had the advantage at Camp Nou. Barcelona was ahead in possession, keeping the ball over 70% of the time throughout the entire first half. Pique had a long-range effort early on. Madrid's counter was cut short; it was the beginning of the end for the rivals from Bernabeu. Lionel Messi worked the ball from the center of the box, shooting on the left side, and missing the far post by a small margin. A ball by Alexis was saved by Casillas and went out for a corner. Victor Valdes wasn't tested too often, but managed to punch out the ball after a Madrid corner on the 36th minute. Madrid seemed a bit panicked, yet despite Barcelona's initiative and the fast-paced tempo of the entire game, both sides were lacking in accuracy. Barcelona had more attempts than Madrid, albeit some sloppy ones. Madrid was great on the defense, but hadn't really done much in terms of attacking. Set pieces were delivered and cleared, three players were booked, yet no goals were scored. 

Scoreless at Camp Nou: Ronaldo and Busquets vie for the ball. Source: el-comepan 
In keeping with the traditional dramatic flavor of El Clasico, the second half more than made up for the first. On many occasions, the team that tries hardest but can't score is the one that ends up conceding first. Today was no different; Real brought on the pressure, and a corner delivered by Ozil got Ronaldo his header on the 55th minute. In no time at all, the home team had equalized. Pedro's right-footed shot to the far post fired past Casillas. It was easy to speculate that a goal-scoring fest was about to erupt after all. Xavi, Alexis, and Pique all took turns trying to get the ball past Casillas. Iniesta made a brilliant run on the 69th minute, only to be brought down by none other than Sergio Ramos. Messi went up to take the penalty. He fooled Casillas, netting the ball into the opposite side of the net. A hardcore fan of the Barcelona star invaded the pitch in an attempt to join in Messi's goal celebration, but was apprehended by stadium security faster than the home team had scored the equalizer. Ozil could have had a one-on-one rendezvous with the keeper, but a defender kicked the ball out from under his feet, making it a corner for Madrid. A beautiful counter on the 78th minute provided Barcelona with their 3rd goal of the match. Xavi picked up the ball in the box after a combination play with Messi, calmly netting it past Iker Casillas. There were less than 7 minutes left of regulation time, and plenty more opportunities for both teams to score. Messi took a shot just a meter away from the target, and Casillas came through for his team with a great save. Angel Di Maria took advantage of Valdes's uncertainty while trying to clear the ball and outplayed the keeper, tightening the score. The three minutes of added time saw no more action from either side, and the first leg of the Supercopa ended in a victory for Messi and company.

Ronaldo celebrates his goal. Source: scoppiachelavittoriaenostra.

Barcelona was able to come off of conceding to winning on their own pitch. Can Madrid outrun the Catalan side at the Bernabeu on August 29th? Perhaps the results of the next Clasico will only confirm that the La Liga championship will be an even greater stand-off than ever. 

Di Maria nets in the second goal for Madrid.

Supercopa de Espana - 1st leg
Thursday, August 23, 2012, 4:30pm EST

FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid - 3:2 (0:0)
Arena: Camp Nou (Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain)
Referee: Carlos Clos Gomez (Zaragoza, Spain)
Goals:
0:1 Cristiano Ronaldo ('55)
1:1 Pedro Rodriguez ('56)
2:1 Lionel Messi (PK) ('70) 
3:1 Xavi Hernandez ('78)
3:2 Angel di Maria ('85) 

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