Real Madrid and Barcelona drew 2-2 in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday in front of 80,000 fans at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu as the two bitter rivals kicked off the new season.
Mesut Ozil gave Real a 13th-minute lead, before David Villa and Lionel Messi put Barcelona ahead at the break.
The Spanish and European champions then celebrated their interval advantage by announcing that they had finally agreed a deal with Arsenal to end their long-running pursuit of Cesc Fabregas.
However, Real took a little shine off the news when Xabi Alonso leveled the tie nine minutes into the second half.
Barcelona boss Josep Guardiola, who remains unbeaten as a manager at the Santiago Bernabeu, remained cautious over tomorrow’s second leg.
“We hope that with our crowd we will have an advantage,” Guardiola said. “I’m satisfied with our efforts tonight, but they were dangerous. We have had a limited time together, with some players only back training a matter of days. Dani Alves, Abidal and Adriano kept us in it at times, so I am especially happy with them.”
Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas was pleased with Madrid’s performance.
“We’ve played well, passed the ball around and we’re happy. Little by little we’re getting there, we’ll go to Barcelona to try and win the trophy,” Casillas said.
In the buildup, Guardiola described the game as “a final against our strongest rivals.”
That made his starting 11 all the more surprising, with Gerard Pique, Xavi Hernandez, Sergi Busquets and Pedro all on the bench, the first three carrying slight injuries and the latter replaced by new signing Alexis Sanchez.
No summer signing started for Jose Mourinho’s Real, who fielded the same 11 that lost 5-0 to Barcelona in La Liga last season.
However, this was a different Madrid.
After eight minutes, a close-range Karim Benzema header produced a superb fingertip save from Victor Valdes. Madrid’s efforts were rewarded with the first goal when Ozil cooly slotted home with his right foot after good work on the right by Karim Benzema.
At that stage Madrid were dominating, with Barca struggling to produce their usual passing game.
It wasn’t until the 35th minute that the Catalans managed their first attack and from nowhere Villa equalized with a curling right-foot shot from the left-hand edge of the penalty area.
Madrid responded with the better attacking play and Cristiano Ronaldo shot high from wide left on 44 minutes. However, it was Barca who then went ahead.
Messi took advantage of defensive mistakes by Pepe and Sami Khedira to stroke the ball into the net in first-half stoppage-time.
The second half started slowly until Xabi Alonso equalized on 53 minutes with a low driven shot from just inside the area after Barcelona failed to clear a corner.
Ronaldo tried on a number of occasions to conjure up a winner for Madrid and Messi came close with a free-kick 12 minutes from the end for the Catalan side.
However, neither team looked likely to win the game in the final minutes, with both content to keep possession and play down the clock.
Jose Maria Callejon and Fabio Coentrao appeared in the second half to make their Real Madrid debuts, while Xavi, Pique and Pedro came off the bench for Barcelona.
Meanwhile, Fabregas completed his move to Barcelona by signing a five-year contract with his boyhood club, the Spanish giants confirmed yesterday.