Barcelona’s new season quite possibly couldn’t have started worse, with a convincing 3-1 loss to Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. While the score might not be completely indicative of the play on the pitch, the game exposed numerous Barcelona problems, which were often reminiscent of last season and seemingly haunted the same players as well. All in all it was a forgettable game for Barcelona who couldn’t do much right in attack and struggled defensively, especially in the second half.
Barcelona started the match from midfield, but while the hosts looked comfortable in possession, it would be the visitors who threated first. Mateo Kovačić tried his luck from range after an errant Marc-Andre ter Stegen pass didn’t find its intended target. Real Madrid continued to push forward and Barcelona’s backline often found itself in tough spots.
However, Barcelona managed to keep Real’s early attacks to the outside, though Isco proved especially dangerous with some gorgeous attacking moves. Barcelona had to wait for their first shot on goal until the 10th minute, when Andres Iniesta’s over the top ball found Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan managed to control the ball and fire a low shot on target, but Keylor Navas was well positioned to make the stop. Five minutes later Barcelona launched their best looking attack of the early going which saw Aleix Vidal carry the ball into the area down the right side. Vidal then tried to find Lionel Messi in the middle, but the pass was intercepted and the chance went begging.
All the while Barcelona were controlling the ball and looking to create scoring chances, Real were comfortable sitting deep and looking for their options on the counter attack, where Isco was again the main orchestrator with his excellent creativity and vision. Even though Barcelona left acres of space uncovered at the back while in attack, Real’s counterattacks were usually very well handled by the defensive duo of Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti.
Barcelona threatened again in the 25th minute, but Messi’s free kick from the left whistled over the crossbar. Moments later, the visitors threatened as well, but Marcelo’s dangerous cross was cleared away by Jordi Alba. The action continued minutes later on the other end of the pitch when Iniesta sent a lovely through ball to Alba, who squared the ball into the middle, but just before Messi could get a shot off it was cleared away for a corner kick what was quickly wasted.
The back and forth action continued in ter Stegen’s area. Isco was again dribbling around Vidal before finding Gareth Bale in a good spot for a golden opportunity. Bale wasted no time, firing first time, but ter Stegen was excellently positioned to make the save. Barcelona continued their search to find the opener in the remainder of the first half, but they couldn’t create any noteworthy chances before Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea blew for halftime.
Possession-wise, Barcelona dominated the half, but the Catalans struggled to create scoring chances and as a result they only took two shots the entire first half - only one on target. Real Madrid, on the other hand, who again relied heavily on their counter-attacking prowess, took five.
No substitutions were made during halftime, and similarly to the first half, Real Madrid started stronger in attack. But unlike in the first half, Barcelona conceded after just five minutes, handing Real the important away goal. Marcelo sent a seemingly harmless low ball in front that ter Stegen was already waiting for. But in came Pique with a sliding challenge to clear the ball away, but he instead redirected it into the back of net.
Barcelona looked to reply quickly and they came close in the 54th minute on a quick counter down the right side when Vidal narrowly missed with a pass to Messi in front of goal. The attack wasn’t over though as the ball found Gerard Deulofeu on the other side. He too looked to find Messi in traffic, but the Argentine couldn’t redirect the ball on goal.
The visitors countered immediately after, with Marcelo again causing problems on the Barcelona right side. This time he found Karim Benzema, who easily dribbled past Pique to find Dani Carvajal wide open on the far post. The Spanish right-back had a wide open net to shot at, but his shot was somehow blocked by a diving Alba who saved a certain goal.
Both teams made their first personnel chances in the 58th minute. Zinedine Zidane replaced Benzema with Cristiano Ronaldo, while Valverde had Denis Saurez take Deulofeu’s place on the pitch. Quickly thereafter Barcelona looked to tie the game from a corner kick, but Suarez’s towering header was saved by Navas.
Barcelona continued to attack and buzz in and around Navas’ penalty area, but getting good looks on goal remained mission impossible for the Catalans. There were some half chances, but those were either wasted by poor “final” passes or wasted by the occasional bad touch.
Both managers made one substitution each in the 68th minute, with Sergi Roberto and Marco Asensio joining play in places of Iniesta and Kovačić. Three minutes later, the Barcelona back-line was completely outplayed by Real’s attackers and Marcelo was left with a one-on-one slightly from the left side. The Brazilian uncorked a powerful shot, but it was right at ter Stegen who made the save.
Slowly but surely Barcelona seemed to be getting better looks on goal. However, converting those “looks” into goals was a different story. In quick succession Busquets, Messi and Denis couldn’t find the back of the net after getting shots off from good spots. That would change, however, in the 76th minute, when Navas “brought down” Suarez inside the area for a penalty kick. Messi stepped up to take the kick and tied the game at one.
But that proved to be the last bright spot for Barcelona in this game. First, in the 80th minute, Isco sprung Ronaldo on the break after a poor reaction from Rakitić on the edge of the Madrid area. Ronaldo skipped past Pique before sending an unstoppable shot past ter Stegen to restore Real’s lead.
Ronaldo would get sent off two minutes later, picking up a second bookable offense for diving in the area, after celebrating the goal by removing his shirt earlier, but even that could not provide a bright spot for Cules around the world as in the dying moments the visitors would strike again. Again on the counter attack, again with Pique “defending”, Real Madrid scored a screamer. This time it was Asensio who seemingly sealed Barcelona’s fate in the Spanish Super Cup with 90 minutes left to play. The second leg will be played in Madrid on August 16.