Isco magic wins Su­per Cup for Real Madrid

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SKOPJE: A de­light­ful goal by Isco proved the dif­fer­ence as Real Madrid sur­vived a Manchester United fight­back to win 2-1 and lift the UEFA Su­per Cup in the Mace­do­nian cap­i­tal of Skopje yes­ter­day. Casemiro put the reign­ing Euro­pean cham­pi­ons in front on 24 min­utes on a steamy sum­mer’s night in the Balkans and Isco dou­bled their lead seven min­utes into the sec­ond half af­ter a one-two with Gareth Bale. The gulf in class be­tween Madrid-for whom Cris­tiano Ron­aldo ap­peared as a late sub­sti­tute-and Europa League win­ners United that Jose Mour­inho had feared was all too ev­i­dent and it looked like the Spaniards would go on to win by a wider mar­gin.

But Romelu Lukaku pulled one back just past the hour, marking his com­pet­i­tive de­but for United with a goal and spark­ing a big im­prove­ment from the Premier League club in the fi­nal stages.

It was to no avail, with Zine­dine Zi­dane’s side win­ning this tro­phy for the sec­ond year run­ning and the fourth time over­all. It is the eighth time in nine years that a Span­ish club has won the Su­per Cup.

BALE HANDED START

While Ron­aldo started on the bench for Madrid hav­ing only com­menced pre-sea­son train­ing at the week­end, Bale was in­cluded in the line-up. United boss Mour­inho caused a stir on Mon­day when he claimed he would make a bid to take the Welsh­man to Old Traf­ford if he were not a starter at the Philip II Arena.

De­spite the pres­ence of £75 mil­lion ($97 mil­lion) sign­ing Lukaku up front, with Paul Pogba be­hind, United gave the im­pres­sion that they could do with some extra in­spi­ra­tion in the fi­nal third.

Hav­ing missed much of last sea­son’s runin due to in­jury, Bale is fit again, but it was Casemiro who emerged as the un­likely main threat go­ing for­ward for Real in the first half.

The Brazil­ian mid­fielder al­most opened the scor­ing in the 16th minute, getting in front of Mat­teo Darmian to head a Toni Kroos cor­ner against the bar from six yards.

And the break­through came just past the mid­way point in the first half as Dani Car­va­jal was af­forded the time to flight a ball over Vic­tor Lin­de­lof-an­other United debu­tant-for Casemiro to stretch and vol­ley past David de Gea. De Gea, for­merly a Madrid trans­fer target, then needed to in­ter­vene to save from a Karim Ben­zema snap-shot that fol­lowed a driv­ing run into the area by Luka Mo­dric, as Zi­dane’s side were restricted to a one-goal lead at the break. Mour­inho sent on Mar­cus Rash­ford for Jesse Lin­gard at the start of the sec­ond half, yet it was at the other end that the chances kept com­ing. De Gea re­pelled a Kroos piledriver but there was noth­ing he could do to stop Isco mak­ing it 2-0 in the 52nd minute. Sur­rounded by red shirts just in­side the area to the left, Isco es­caped their at­ten­tions by play­ing a one-two with Bale be­fore coolly fin­ish­ing past De Gea.

Bale then struck the bar, and all this was go­ing on with­out Ron­aldo, who ap­peared from the bench to warm-up, rais­ing hys­teric cheers from the size­able num­ber of lo­cals with sym­pa­thies for the Span­ish side. United had a moun­tain to climb and were not helped when Lukaku blazed over af­ter Key­lor Navas pushed a Pogba header out into his path. Lukaku did not make the same mis­take twice, con­vert­ing the re­bound when a Ne­manja Matic drive was not con­vinc­ingly dealt with by Navas, but the ‘keeper re­deemed him­self with a vi­tal late save to deny Rash­ford. And Real, with Ron­aldo on for the clos­ing stages, held on. — AFP

SKOPJE: Real Madrid pose with the tro­phy af­ter de­feat­ing Manchester United 2-1 dur­ing the Su­per Cup fi­nal soc­cer match at Philip II Arena in Skopje, yes­ter­day. — AP

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