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Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012

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Boxed in: Real Madrid's Ronaldo moves for the ball while challenged by Barcelona's Sergio Busquets (left) and Dani in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup at Nou Camp on Thursday night. Barca won 3-2. AP

Barcelona rallies to take first leg of Spanish Super Cup

AP

BARCELONA, Spain — Barcelona came from behind to beat Real Madrid 3-2 on Thursday night in the opening leg of the Spanish Super Cup, giving Tito Vilanova a victory in his first meeting as manager against counterpart Jose Mourinho.

The first meeting of the season between Spain's top clubs provided more of the usual heated rivalry to match the scorching summer night. It lived up to the expectations of the 91,728 fans as Vilanova faced Mourinho a year on from a famous clash that saw the Madrid manager poke his counterpart in the eye.

Tensions off the field had simmered from last August, when an on-field brawl marred Barcelona's Super Cup triumph. Mourinho and Vilanova shook hands and spoke a few words before the start of a tentative first half that was quickly forgotten after the restart.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the action-packed second half by heading Madrid in front in the 55th minute, the Portugal forward becoming the first Madrid player to score in four consecutive matches at Nou Camp.

Barcelona equalized on the very next possession as Javier Mascherano picked out Pedro Rodriguez with a perfect long ball and the Spain forward showed fine control before firing past Iker Casillas.

Andres Iniesta's tricky runs put Madrid's defense on the back foot and Barcelona in command, and the Golden Ball nominee forced Sergio Ramos into a poor tackle to set up Lionel Messi's penalty in the 70th.

The Argentina forward's third goal of the season saw him match Cesar Rodriguez's club record of 14 goals scored against Madrid.

Iniesta calmly skipped past Sami Khedira before drawing two other Madrid players to lay a perfect pass on to the path of the speeding Xavi Hernandez in the 78th and the Barcelona midfielder easily beat Casillas for 3-1.

But substitute Angel Di Maria pulled an important away goal back for Madrid in the 85th from Victor Valdes' horrendous error as the Barcelona goalkeeper tried to control Adriano's back pass only to have possession wrestled away by Di Maria and the Argentina forward scored into an empty net.

The valuable second away goal boosted defending Spanish champion Madrid chances before next Thursday's return at its Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

"I would have preferred 3-1 to 3-2 but we played a good game," Vilanova said. "The tie is in still in our favor, so generally we have to be happy."

Mourinho was not entirely displeased with his team's performance despite the King's Cup winner's dominance in possession.

"I didn't like how we played in the first half. A team can change your game plan through its play and Barcelona played well, pressured us a lot and didn't let us get out to attack," Mourinho said. "But we played completely different from the first play of the second half."

The Portuguese coach lashed out at referee Clos Gomez, claiming Pedro was offside on the equalizer.

"I'm not surprised he would say that," Vilanova said.

Dempsey row escalates

AP

LONDON — Fulham has complained about Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers to the Premier League over the club's pursuit of striker Clint Dempsey.

The U.S. international has been linked with a move to Liverpool throughout the offseason, and Rodgers was quoted as saying "Clint is a player we've inquired about" on the website of Liverpool's owners.

The website also wrongly claimed last month that Dempsey had moved to Anfield.



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