Defending champions Real Madrid have been knocked out of the Spanish Super Cup, following an atrocious first half display, ultimately contributing to a 2-1 defeat to Athletic Club.
Real’s problems have been evident this season, they’ve largely been a team of one half, and full of mistakes which have contributed decisively to their potential 10-point deficit to leaders Atletico Madrid. And it was another ultimately flat opening 45-minutes, even though they started with a bit of intent.
Eden Hazard was playing more centrally, with Marco Asensio on the left-wing, and it was Belgian who had the first pop at goal, Unai Simon easily pushing Hazard’s left-footed drive wide. Then Hazard was involved again, a little warning for Athletic, as Casemiro chipped the ball over the top of the defence, but Hazard wasn’t able to find the freedom in the box to get a shot off on goal in time.
Real’s best chance was probably Sergio Ramos’ header after a quarter of an hour, though he could head Toni Kroos’ free-kick into Simon’s hands. And then, the mistake came. With so much time and space, Lucas Vazquez attempted to break the Athletic midfield line, when he had simpler options, and two passes later, Raphael Varane was caught pressing high, and in-behind was Raul Garcia who opened the scoring with a calm side-footed finish.
Madrid’s final chance of the half again came through Hazard. This time Ferland Mendy played him through into space, but instead of taking a touch inside and shooting, Hazard took a touch to go wider and by the time his attempt at cutting it back materialised, Athletic were back in numbers.
Before the break, Lucas made another mistake. Caught out of position, he instead had to wrestle Inigo Martinez to the floor in the box with the defender getting goal-side of him. Penalty given, and dispatched into the top corner by Raul Garcia, who’s brace will be seen as the perfect personal revenge, having been sent off after 13 minutes in the league match between these two in December.
Instead of coming out all guns blazing, Madrid could have been 3-0 down before it got any better. Iker Muniain was picked out with a peach of a cross from Oscar de Marcos, but Muniain put his free-header wide as Real escaped with a bit of hope.
Anything that was going to happen, seemed as if Asensio would produce it. Twice within a space of seven minutes he struck the woodwork after the hour mark. First Hazard sharply cut it back in his path and his first time shot at Simon rooted, though the woodwork was shaking. And then from the corner of the box he let fly, Simon beaten again, the woodwork shook again. Madrid still two-down.
Moments later, Benzema put the ball into the back of the net following Casemiro’s header back across goal, and after it was initially ruled out for offside, VAR deemed it to be on-side and it stood. With 18 minutes plus stoppage time to still play, oddly, Real didn’t have much urgency to their game. Asier Villalibre had literally just stepped onto the pitch and his first action was being through one-on-one with Thibaut Courtois, who made a heroic save to keep the game alive.
But Madrid just didn’t want it enough, Mendy picked out Benzema, who did score but was offside. And Ramos attempted a scorpion-kick in the final minute of the six stoppage time minutes, and even had a claim for a last-ditch penalty, though VAR said nothing doing.
Another disappointing result for Real, they’re building up now. Perhaps more frustrating was Zinedine Zidane’s obsession with the same players. This team was exactly the same starting XI which drew 0-0 to Osasuna, that day they looked tired, today they looked knackered. Only two cup competitions remain.
Up next for Real Madrid?
Who? CD Alcoyano
Competition? Copa Del Rey
When? Wednesday 20th January @ 21:00 CET
Where? Campo Municipal El Collao