ISCO MAGIC WINS SUPER CUP FOR REAL MADRID
WINS SUPER CUP FOR REAL MADRID
Skopje, Macedonia - 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 Skopje on Tuesday.
Casemiro put the reigning European champion in front on 24 minutes on a steamy summer's night in the Balkans and Isco doubled its 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 winner 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 English 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.
"It is all down to hard work. We know there is a lot of talent in this team and there is so much hunger too, they always want more," said Zidane after lifting more silverware. "Today was an almost perfect match, and the first half was spectacular."
"There were big celebrations in the dressing room, we don't get tired of winning," said the Frenchman, whose side will defend the Champions League crown and the Spanish League this season. "I don't know if we can play any better, but we will try. We know that we have difficult opponents, with another one coming on Sunday. But our ambition is to keep getting better."
Real faces Barcelona in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday and Ronaldo will hope to play a key role in that game after Tuesday’s brief appearance.
While Ronaldo started on the bench for Madrid having only commenced pre-season training at the weekend, Bale was included in the first XI.
Despite the presence of US$97mn signing Lukaku up front, with Paul Pogba behind, United often gave the impression that it could do with some extra inspiration in the final third.
Having missed much of last season's run-in 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 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.
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, 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 hysterical cheers from the sizeable number of locals supporting Real.
United had a mountain to climb and was not helped when Lukaku blazed over after Keylor Navas pushed a Pogba header 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 goalkeeper redeemed himself with a vital late save to deny Rashford.
And Real, with Ronaldo on for the closing stages, held out.
Real Madrid's Isco celebrates after scoring a goal against Manchester United on Tuesday
Real Madrid players celebrate after winning the UEFA Super Cup in Skopje, Macedonia on Tuesday