Real Madrid vs Seville Super Cup match report: Cristiano Ronaldo double shows he’s still the top man in Madrid
Real Madrid 2 Seville 0: Gareth Bale returns home but is forced to play support role to Portuguese
cardiff city stadium
Tuesday 12 August 2014
This was not, in the end, a radical re-launch for Real Madrid but a more familiar victory. They won the Uefa Super Cup in Cardiff, beating Seville 2-0, owing less to their gleaming new stars than to the one who still burns brightest across the game.
James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, representing £80million of summer updates, might well be the future of Real Madrid but Cristiano Ronaldo, their most important player of the modern era, is still their powerful present.
Ronaldo won this game with both goals, a poacher's finish before the break and a rocketed second straight after. They won him the man of the match award, presented by his one-time mentor Sir Alex Ferguson, and the sixth major trophy at Real Madrid.
After the early excitement about Ronaldo's new team-mates, it was clear fairly on that he would be the man to secure Real Madrid's latest trophy. He nearly opened the scoring half-way through the first half, producing an astonishing first touch with the inside of his right boot to gain five yards of space from Federico Fazio, only to shoot straight at the goalkeeper.
The first goal came soon after, as Ronaldo pulled away from left-back Fernando Navarro at the far-post to finish Gareth Bale's brilliant cross, at the end of a move that Ronaldo had started in his own half.
Seville could do little about that goal and even less about the second, three minutes after the restart. It was a goal that could hardly have been scored by any other footballer on earth.
Benzema had the ball in a deep position and played a reverse pass between Coke and Nicolas Pareja. Ronaldo took one touch to make the space before hitting left-footed shot with such power that it burnt through Beto's hands and into the far top corner of the net.
After his World Cup was impaired by a frustrating knee injury, prompting worries that this all-time great might have hit his peak, it was the perfect response. The Ronaldo era at Real Madrid still has some more time left.
This matters too for Gareth Bale, the most popular man here at the Cardiff City Stadium. As celebrated as he was, he had to play a supporting role to Ronaldo, but he did it brilliantly. He made the opening goal with a curling cross, round the back of the defence and straight to Ronaldo, which was just as imaginative and precise as any goal that he scores. He was the hero of the capacity crowd, a mix of proud locals and travelling Madridistas.
The initial thrill of the evening, though, was more about James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos. This was Real Madrid's first game since becoming European championship three months ago but it felt like it could have been the start of a new era.
There was no Angel Di Maria, Sami Khedira or Xabi Alonso, players who can provide tactical balance, Ancelotti instead picking the big summer arrivals for their debuts in white. Real had to ease their way into the game against a Seville side who played with a focus, desire and organisation reminiscent of Atletico Madrid, whom Real eventually overcame in Lisbon three months ago. Seville snapped into tackles, upending Bale and Ronaldo in the opening minutes, and making it clear they were not just here for the pleasure of sharing a pitch with the galacticos.
Vitolo and Daniel Carrico forced saves from Iker Casillas in the first half, and Denis Suarez was impressive throughout, scurrying behind Carlos Bacca and directing most of Seville's counter-attacks. But it was never enough to get them into the lead and once Madrid were 2-0 up, the game slowed down to walking pace.
James Rodriguez was replaced by Isco, a golden boy of last summer, with 20 minutes left, after a mixed performance the highlight of which was a curled cross to Bale at the far post while the score was still 0-0.
Kroos, taking Xabi Alonso's role alongside Modric in midfield, was more impressive. He was busy and mobile, always showing for the ball, completing more passes than anyone else on the pitch and making the basics of football - control and passing - look remarkably simple.
James and Kroos will win many more trophies for Real Madrid in the future, and could become heroes themselves at the Bernabeu. But for now this is still Cristiano Ronaldo's patch, and he is still the best there is.
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