An embarrassing blunder by Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes handed Real Madrid a Spanish Super Cup lifeline despite slumping to a 3-2 first leg defeat at their Catalan rivals’ Camp Nou home.
With Barca 3-1 ahead, and pressing for a fourth goal, Valdes was caught out inside his own penalty area as he tried to dribble the ball clear only to be dispossessed by a stunned Angel Di Maria who scored into an empty goal.
Pedro Rodriguez, Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez had earlier scored second-half goals to give Barca a convincing lead after Cristiano Ronaldo had put Madrid ahead on 55 minutes.
Madrid coach Jose Mourinho questioned the legality of Barca’s first goal.
“Barca played well, especially in the first-half when they did not allow us to play, but in the second we were able to change our game a little. It was a good game but their first goal was an error by the linesman and was offside,” he said.
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova, in charge of his first ‘Clasico’, was happy with his side’s performance.
“We controlled the game and we had the chance to go 4-1 ahead at the end, but that’s football. We’ve won and we’re ahead in the tie so I’m satisfied,” he said.
While Barca did begin to control possession, it took until the 17th minute for the game’s first real action when Gerard Pique tried his luck from long range but failed to hit the target.
Two minutes later Messi found Dani Alves with a delightful ball in space on the right and when he received the return pass his left-footed shot just missed the target.
It was Messi again on 29 minutes who reacted quicker than the Madrid defence to find the space to hit a drive that went just wide of Iker Casillas’s goal. Casillas was then finally called into action to divert over the bar a Pedro drive.
Alexis Sanchez was finding some space down the right side for Barcelona and was unfortunate with a claim for a penalty when it appeared that Sergio Ramos had felled the Chilean on 39 minutes.
The interval came and went and the game continued in the same pattern until the 55th minute when Ronaldo, previously anonymous, outjumped Sergio Busquets to head home a Mesut Ozil corner.
Barca’s reaction was immediate and they were level within two minutes when a raking pass from Javier Mascherano found Pedro who hit the target. Messi then went on a mazy run and released Dani Alves who forced a diving save from Casillas.
The game had opened up and Mourinho switched Benzema for Gonzalo Higuain but it was Barca who continued to create more meaningful opportunities.
On 69 minutes, Andres Iniesta provoked a clumsy challenge from Sergio Ramos in the area with a quick drag-back of the ball and Messi converted the resulting penalty.
Nine minutes later Iniesta was again the instigator when he threaded a pass through the Madrid defence to give Xavi the easiest of chances for Barca’s third goal.
Barca had confirmed their supremacy and were looking the more likely to add to their tally in the final minutes until Valdes badly misjudged a backpass and Di Maria pounced to snatch a lifeline for Madrid.
Everton’s new £6million striker Kevin Mirallas has revealed he snubbed a move to Arsenal in favour of joining compatriot Marouane Fellaini at Goodison Park.
The 24-year-old completed his move from Greek champions Olympiakos over the weekend and watched his new side open their campaign with a 1-0 win over Manchester United on Monday night.
Discussing his move to Merseyside, the Belgian admitted he rejected a move to North London over the fear of a lack of playing time while he was impressed with what Toffees boss David Moyes had to say.
The revelation is the latest blow to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger who this past week has seen both Robin van Persie and Alex Song leave the club while a move for Real Madrid’s Nuri Sahin is believed to have stalled.
“Discussions were at quite an advanced stage with Arsenal but it was always clear it would be totally down to me to make the decision,” said Mirallas.
“I was convinced that what was important for me at this stage of my career, embarking on new league, is to get plenty of time on the field. I had a possibility of playing more games and longer periods with Everton.
“A number of clubs were showing interest in me and my discussions with the manager here were very important. From the word go I was really impressed by the extent to which the manager wanted me here.
“Firstly he has been here for a good number of years and has a solid base so there is stability at the club. He also showed a lot of confidence in me in the conversations we had and he really wanted me to come to the club and that was another influence, definitely.”
Mirallas, who scored 20 goals last season as Olympiakos clinched a 39th domestic league title, also revealed he spoke to Fellaini, Everton’s match-winner against United, about the club,
“Marouane being here was also decisive in making my decision also. We had a couple of phone conversations and it definitely influenced my decision.
“He convinced me the club was an ideal fit for me and hopefully it is a place where I can exploit my talents and grow as a player and perform well. He told me it was very much a family spirit about the place and I could expect a warm welcome from the fans.
“Not only has he helped me in coming to the club but I also think he will help me as I settle in as it is always nice to have a fellow countryman beside you when you are getting to know a place.”
Daniele De Rossi has ended speculation linking him with a move to Manchester City by pledging his future to boyhood heroes AS Roma.
The 29-year-old had been heavily linked with a big-money move to the Etihad Stadium in recent days as reports in Italy had claimed City had lodged a £31million bid for his services.
However, at a press conference on Tuesday De Rossi, who only penned a new five-year deal with the Giallorossi last February, denied he was set to quit the Stadio Olimpico to join Roberto Mancini’s star-studded side.
“I’m staying here, I feel good here, and I never asked anyone to leave,” said De Rossi. “People have written all sorts of things, about me, about Mancini. Some of it makes me laugh. Some of it makes me angry.
“I decided to talk today, but it wasn’t my intention to talk about an offer from Manchester City. This is a normal press conference for me, not the announcement of the Third World War.
“I can swear to you one thing: if I ever think about leaving, I’ll come here in front of these microphones and speak, like a 30 year-old-man should do.
“I always told the truth, even when we were talking about money, never hiding anything. For me it’s important to say my piece. I am here at Roma, I’m happy and never asked to leave.”
Despite missing out on De Rossi, Mancini remains keen on strengthening his title-winning side further and continues to be linked with moves for Fiorentian duo – forward Stevan Jovetic and highly-rated young defender Matija Nastasic.
Reports in recent days suggest City have opened negotiations with Fiorentina over a €30million deal for 22-year-old Jovetic as Mancini looks to bolster his attacking options.
The injury sustained to Sergio Aguero against Southamption, while not serious, has worried Mancini enough to make him revaluate his transfer plans, with a new striker likely to be added before the transfer deadline on August 31.
Serbian teen Nastasic, meanwhile, has caught the eye of a number of clubs with his assured performances for La Viola, and reports claim City may also look to seal a deal for his signature as well as Jovetic’s.