Barcelona : Cristiano Ronaldo made a big impact in his truncated appearance at Camp Nou, scoring a goal before being sent off in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win over Barcelona in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.
Ronaldo went on in the 58th minute and scored with a beautiful strike to make it 2-1 in the 80th, earning a yellow card for taking off his shirt to flex his muscles at Barcelona’s faithful.
But that defiant pose turned into a petulant pout two minutes later when Ronaldo was booked again for diving in the area following contact with Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti. Ronaldo gave the referee a push in the back after seeing the red card that meant he will miss Wednesday’s return leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said that the club would consider appealing Ronaldo’s second booking to the Spanish football federation.
“We played a great match. What bothers me is the sending off of Cristiano,” Zidane said. “Maybe it wasn’t a penalty, but the card is a bit too much.”
After Madrid went ahead in the 50th from an own-goal by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, Lionel Messi equalised for Barcelona in the 77th from the penalty spot. Messi was given the chance to take his “clasico” goal record to 24 against Madrid when Luis Suarez was fouled by goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
While Ronaldo’s goal was a blow, substitute Marco Asensio’s 90th-minute strike — with Madrid down to 10 men — left Barcelona in a deep hole for the second leg.
“I am not going to play this down, we are happy with the result. But of course it is not over,” Zidane said. “We are going to enjoy this today, because it is something to enjoy, and tomorrow we will think about the game on Wednesday.”
While Zidane’s Madrid took a big step to a second title to start the season after beating Manchester United in the European Super Cup, it was a dismal debut for Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde.
Barcelona had hoped to show that, with Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta, it could still compete with Madrid despite having Brazil star Neymar plucked away by Paris Saint-Germain on a world-record transfer last week.
Valverde opted to start Gerard Deulofeu in Neymar’s spot on the left side, and the contrast with Neymar was clear. The forward lacked the natural talent and expert timing that Neymar had developed over four seasons with Messi and Suarez up front, and Barcelona attacked better after midfielder Denis Suarez replaced Deulofeu early in the second half.
While Barcelona slumped to a loss to its fiercest rival, Neymar scored a goal in an impressive debut for PSG to help it win 3-0 at Guingamp in the French league.
“We don’t like to lose, especially against Madrid, and especially when there is a title at stake,” Valverde said. “We are hurting after a loss like this, but we have to regroup and get ready for the next match.”
Barcelona’s night to forget started when Pique slid to defend a cross by Marcelo, only to redirect the ball into the corner of his net.
Barcelona still dominated possession, but ended up playing into Madrid’s hands. It was caught off-balance in defense on goals by second-half substitutes Ronaldo and Asensio scored on the break.
Both forwards were left all alone against Pique. And, after maneuvering to pick their spots, Ronaldo and Asensio executed superb strikes from outside the area to beat the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Ronaldo’s first goal of the season came after he played just the final 10 minutes of Madrid’s win over United as Zidane monitors his return to full speed following an extended summer vacation.
The defeat leaves Barcelona under pressure to spend at least part of the record 222 million euros (USD 262 million) it received from PSG for Neymar before the market closes at the end of the month. So far, the club’s attempts to pry away Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund winger Ousmane Dembele have failed.
“The team needs to be renewed,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “There is no doubt that we have to sign players.”