After winning both legs of the Supercopa de España, Real Madrid deservedly lifted the trophy on a 5-1 aggregate win. The winner of the title was never in question on the late night in Madrid as the hosts quickly scored another stunner to put any doubts to rest. Real will therefore already add their second trophy to the trophy cabinet this season and seem to be firing on all cylinders, while Barcelona could use another month or two (or three) to get things straightened out.
Real Madrid quickly pushed forward, pinning Barcelona’s three-man backline deep. Ernesto Valverde was hoping his tactical changes would pay dividends on the pitch and Barcelona would able to control the midfield with their numerical advantage, but Real’s pressure high up the pitch was relentless. Barcelona couldn’t carry the ball over the midfield line while the hosts seemed destined to quickly add to their already substantial advantage.
It seemed that Luka Modrić would do just that very quickly after the opening whistle, but Samuel Umtiti made the important block. But the hosts still needed just under four minutes to score the opener, with Marco Asensio again producing a stunning strike from long range, giving Marc-Andre ter Stegen absolutely no chance to make the save. Real continued to look dangerous on the pitch while Barcelona struggled to get started, let alone get close to Keylor Navas.
Barcelona’s play started resembling football after the 10 minute mark, after Real’s opening press slightly faded, allowing Barcelona’s ball-carriers a second or two more on the ball. The Catalans started to create some half-chances, with Lionel Messi at one point trying to dribble past Navas from the right side, and minutes later trying to find Luis Suarez in front of an open net, but both times without much success.
The tempo of play dropped after the opening 20 minutes and neither team managed to get much going for a few minutes, before the Real’s midfield took control of the game with their quick passing and vision to create chances. Barcelona were living dangerously as the wing-backs at times offered little help to the center-back trio, allowing acres of space to Real in attack.
Barcelona escaped punishment at first, even surviving a shot to the post by Lucas Vazquez after a terrible Javier Mascherano turnover, but Barcelona’s living on the edge ended in the 39th minute. As they had been doing for the past 10 minutes, Real were tightening the noose around Barcelona, and they finally completed the task after Sergio Busquets again turned the ball over deep. The ball was quickly sent to the left to Marcelo who found Karim Benzema in the middle, who with a masterful first touch separated himself from Umtiti and finished the play off from up close.
The hosts continued to be the better team on the pitch, by a large margin, after doubling their lead. It wasn’t that Barcelona were shell-shocked by Real’s goals and play on the pitch, the Catalans were, to put it bluntly, they were terrible. Barcelona played what should’ve been a five man midfield yet seeming only Messi was playing in the heart of the pitch. The Catalans couldn’t hold on to the ball for prolonged periods of time, leading to Real dominating possession to the tune of 58%-42% at halftime, with the hosts firing nine shots, while Barcelona had only had one.
Barcelona were being dominated to the tune they haven’t been in the last decade and it came at the hands of their biggest rival, who demonstrated what Barcelona perfected under Pep Guardiola – you’re only as good as your midfield.
The Catalans started the second half with some life, playing decent defense and looked lively in attack, and it didn’t take long for them to threaten. The play came down the right side where Suarez eluded his marker and sent a dangerous ball to the middle, but somehow Navas was able to corral the ball.
Valverde made his first substitution in the 50th minute, giving Nelson Semedo his Barcelona debut in place of Gerard Pique, which brought some tactical changes as well, as Barcelona went back to the more familiar 4-3-3 formation. Barcelona came close to scoring in the 52th minute after a rare defensive mistake by Real left Suarez and Messi with a two on one. Suarez sprung Messi behind the defense and the Argentine fired a shot that beat Navas, but ricochet off the crossbar.
The hosts almost added to their lead three minutes later after another turnover deep in Barcelona area. Benzema was sent behind the Catalan defense and fired a rising shot from a tough angle that ter Stegen had to make a fabulous save on to prevent more celebrations in white.
Playing in their usual formation, Barcelona looked much more comfortable. Mistakes were still a constant in Barcelona’s play and the midfield continued to be almost non-existent, but the players knew where they had to be. Maybe some of that “comfort” was the result of Real not pressing a much, but Barcelona at times even looked competent. Chances for Barcelona remained few, but some of those should’ve resulted in goals, like the one by Suarez, whose header missed an empty net after Navas missed the punch-out.
Barcelona had three chances in quick succession around the 70 minute mark. First, Sergi Roberto produced a weak effort one-on-one with Navas that the Madrid goalkeeper easily saved. Then, Messi forced Navas into a great save from long range, before the rebound fell to the right side to a wide open Suarez who had an empty net to shoot at, but his header only managed to hit the post.
Valverde then made his second change of the game, with Gerard Deulofeu replacing Andre Gomes. Quickly thereafter the Barcelona manager made his last substitution, taking Jordi Alba off the pitch and replacing him with Lucas Digne.
Barcelona continued in their search for the consolidation goal, but after some terrible misses earlier in the half it was not to be. Deulofeu tried to the catalyst off the bench with his fresh legs, but his runs were also snuffed out by the Real Madrid defense.
In all, Barcelona will be happy that the two-leg Supercopa is in the books as they were utterly dominated at times and couldn’t find the back of the net if their life depended on it. As Busquets said earlier this week, reinforcements are desperately needed, but solving the left-wing problem will not fix Barcelona.