Madrid beats Barca 2-0 without Ronaldo to win Super Cup
MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-0 to complete a 5-1 victory on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday, dominating its fiercest rival without the need of Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale.
Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema provided the goals in the second leg for a Madrid side that showed every ounce of confidence that Barcelona sorely lacked.
While Bale was rested on the bench, Ronaldo watched the game from the Santiago Bernabeu stands as he completed the first game of a five-match ban for pushing the referee who sent him off in Sunday’s 3-1 first-leg win.
Asensio filled in perfectly for Madrid’s star, scoring five minutes into the match for his second goal in the season’s curtain raiser. Benzema added a second goal in the 39th after Lucas Vazquez had already hit the post for the hosts.
Last season’s Liga and Champions League winners, Madrid also beat Manchester United to win the European Super Cup last week.
“We played very well in the away leg and we had a great game tonight, above all in the first half, which was spectacular,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “We have to congratulate the players because they were fantastic. You couldn’t notice the changes (to the starting lineup).”
Barcelona struggled to score for a second match since the shocking departure of Neymar on a world-record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain. The closest it went to scoring was Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez hitting the woodwork in the second half after the title was already in Madrid’s grasp.
After seeing his team be soundly beaten on its home pitch in his debut with the team on Sunday, Barcelona’s new coach Ernesto Valverde decided to revamp both his starting 11 and its formation.
He ditched Barcelona’s classic 4-3-3 formation for a 3-5-2, with only Messi and Suarez up front. Neymar had accompanied them for the past four seasons before he bolted for PSG.
Valverde also gave starts to midfielders Andre Gomes and Sergi Roberto and defender Javier Mascherano, in place of Sunday’s starters Aleix Vidal, Gerard Deulofeu and the injured Andres Iniesta.
It didn’t matter.
Barcelona had no answer for Madrid’s pressure, lost ball after ball in its own half, and clearly missed Neymar’s presence on the left flank to start quick attacks.
“They showed more energy in their pressure and we suffered when they recovered the ball,” Valverde said. “It’s obvious that we have to recover our spirit quickly.”
The only bright spot on another long night for Barcelona was the positive contribution of Roberto, who provided the only consistent attacking spark besides Messi.
Zidane also rested Francisco “Isco” Alarcon and Casemiro, who went on late. Luka Modric was back from suspension and outplayed all of Barcelona’s midfielders.
Asensio picked up right where he had left the first leg, stunning goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen with a long strike that floated overhead before landing in the net.
Asensio earned a place in Zidane’s starting 11 after going on as a substitute on Sunday and capping Madrid’s victory by scoring a 90th-minute goal with a long shot that Ter Stegen failed to stop.
The 21-year-old forward started the second leg with a similar superb strike, bending a left-footed shot from well outside the area over a flatfooted Ter Stegen.
Messi needed over 10 minutes to finally touch the ball, and once he did Barcelona showed signs of life with two Messi-led attacks that made Madrid work in defense.
But despite having five midfielders, Barcelona never established control. A bad pass by Mascherano almost led to a goal from Vazquez, who hit the post in the 33rd.
That was just a warning of was about to come when Sergio Busquets lost another ball near Barcelona’s area. Madrid left back Marcelo pounced by sending a low cross into the area, when Benzema twisted around Samuel Umtiti and swept in his goal.
It took almost an hour for Messi to finally produced Barcelona’s first serious threat when he forced Keylor Navas to palm his shot onto the bar in the 53rd.
Suarez headed a rebound of Messi’s strike parried by Navas off the upright in the 71st. The striker finished the match favoring his right knee after running into Navas.
Madrid starts its defense of its Spanish league title on Sunday at Deportivo La Coruna, while Barcelona will try to rebound at home against Real Betis.
AP writer Joseph Wilson contributed from Barcelona.