Real Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo Begins His Season

Forget about Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the opening goal in the first leg; His start to the 2012-2013 season was a sleepy one, but a fantastic first half in the 2-1 win against Barcelona signaled to us that he’s finally arrived with goals, flair and a bit of glory in the end to pick up the first title of the season.

After two sleepy appearances against Valencia and Getafe, Ronaldo enjoyed having someone who doesn’t know how to play at right back, Adriano, keeping tabs on him or anyone else on that wing. Marcelo suddenly looked like a superstar as well for a few minutes if you hadn’t noticed. Yes, Dani Alves is that important to Barcelona, and Vilanova probably made a mistake by choosing to start with Adriano and not Martin Montoya once he found out Alves was injured during the stretching. On the other hand, Adriano was supposed to be the left back and Jordi Alba come from the bench.

So Barcelona weren’t at their best, but that doesn’t mean Real Madrid didn’t play well, especially in the first half. High pressure on Barcelona’s defenders and this time, keeping a man ahead in front of the ball while Real Madrid were defending. Both goals came from clearances that Mascherano and Pique botched up, allowing Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo to put Real Madrid 2-0 up after 18 minutes.

Xabi Alonso had a pretty perfect match from a defensive standpoint, completely eliminating Xavi in the first half, forcing the game to go through just Messi and Andres Iniesta, making Barcelona’s possession stretches short and hurried. Only when Martin Montoya came into the game did Real stop pushing forward (they shouldn’t have stopped) and Barcelona slowed into their usual rhythm. It’s situations like these that show you how Real still have that fear from Barcelona, even with only 10 men on the field.

Jose Mourinho didn’t get the best out of his players in the second half, moving back and defending with 10 men behind the ball. The Barcelona possession and ball movement became confident for most of the second half, boosted by Lionel Messi’s fantastic free kick goal near the end of the half. It coaxed Real defenders into a false sense of confidence, allowing three brilliant passes from Lionel Messi (x2) and Javier Mascherano to put Pedro, Jordi Alba and Martin Montoya in one on one situations against Iker Casillas, but all three missed.

Real’s defense, for the most part, did a very good job. Marcelo didn’t have to handle Alexis and Dani Alves, which made it easier for Sergio Ramos to help and cover for the Brazilian, while Pepe had one of his more responsible performances. Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria showed some great things everyone knows about them but their usual problematic ability in front of goal which is what keeps them from actually being just as good as Messi or Ronaldo – their finishing ability.

Luka Modric made his debut, but that really doesn’t teach us anything. It’s hard to believe he’ll grab either Xabi Alonso or Mesut Ozil’s spots in the starting lineup, meaning its going to be Sami Khedira who pays the price for the new arrival. Whether that changes how Real Madrid play, having a ‘softer’ midfield with that inclusion, remains to be seen. Are they better for it? Probably, although a Supercopa win doesn’t erase the lost points in the La Liga.

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