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Friday, Aug. 31, 2012

Real Madrid beats Barcelona to give Mourinho 20th title


MADRID — Real Madrid took advantage of quick goals to beat 10-man Barcelona 2-1 on Wednesday to win the Spanish Super Cup on away goals after the two-legged tie ended 4-4.

News photo
Wrapped up: Barcelona's Lionel Messi is defended by Real Madrid's Alvaro Arbeloa (right) and Mesut Ozil in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday night at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Real won on away goals after it ended 4-4 on aggregate. AFP-JIJI

Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo put Madrid in control with goals inside 23 minutes at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to take advantage of Barcelona's poor start.

Adriano was red-carded for tripping Ronaldo as he was set to race clear on goalkeeper Victor Valdes in the 28th to further thwart the visitors' hopes.

But Lionel Messi curled home an exquisite free kick before halftime of another thrilling match between the Spanish giants with the league champions hanging on to beat the cup holders for the title.

Alex Song and Luka Modric both made their debuts for their clubs, with Madrid's first victory of the season in all competitions helping it recover from its worst start for nearly 40 years and edging it ahead of Barcelona 88-87 in wins between the "clasico" rivals.

"We got off to poor start and there were doubts," captain Iker Casillas said. "But I think we deserve this title."

It also provided coach Jose Mourinho with the last piece of silverware missing from his Spanish trophy cabinet. The Portuguese coach's 20th title means he has won every trophy available in the four leagues where he's coached — Spain, England, Italy and Portugal.

Barcelona hadn't won a trophy against Madrid at Bernabeu since 1968 and its flat start certainly made victory look unlikely.

Madrid took advantage of its rival's worst spell of soccer since perhaps before Pep Guardiola took charge in 2008 early on as Higuain forced Valdes into a clutch save in the 7th before burying his next chance.

Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano missed Pepe's long ball as it fell to Higuain inside the Barcelona area for the Argentina striker to half-volley between Valdes' legs.

Mascherano's struggles continued with a booking, and Valdes was incensed with his defense in the 22nd as Higuain burst clear inside the area again to force another goal-saving stop.

A short time later, Gerard Pique failed to disrupt a long ball to Ronaldo who, while on the run, flicked it high to himself. The Portugal forward gathered his poor touch before blasting a low shot past Valdes from just inside the area to score for the fifth straight game against Barcelona.

Barcelona, which was without injured defenders Dani Alves and Carles Puyol, looked dazed and confused as Higuain nearly scored again before Barcelona finally gained some momentum when Miguel Montoya replaced Alexis Sanchez after Adriano was red carded.

Barcelona regained its composure despite being a man down before Messi curled around the outside of the defensive wall past the outstretched Casillas for his 15th goal against Madrid, a club record.

"It's not that they were playing so much better than us, but we know it is Real Madrid and we know about the quality they have," said Barcelona coach Tito Vilnova.

Casillas made big stops on Pedro Rodriguez in the second half, while Valdes stopped Sami Khedira before Song replaced Sergio Busquets in the 75th for his Barcelona debut.

Still, Madrid had chances to put the game away as Higuain hit the post in the 80th before Modric came on.

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