Real Madrid have two away goals and a chance to turn around this result in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup, but Barcelona will be heading into Wednesday's match as favorites to lift the trophy. Los Blancos jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but Barca stormed back to go ahead 3-1. They appeared to be coasting to a two-goal victory before Victor Valdes gifted Madrid a goal, and the visitors will be heading back to the Santiago Bernabeu feeling like they have an excellent chance to win the cup after their 3-2 loss at Camp Nou.
Lionel Messi had a very solid game, but was not at his best. He had two poor misses in a first half which was reminiscent of the second half of the last season, when Barcelona regularly dominated but inexplicably failed to score. Messi's great chances came in the 18th and 29th minutes, and he pulled both shots wide when he had a clear shooting lane.
The end of the second half featured a penalty shout for Alexis Sanchez, though no one made very much of it. Sergio Ramos appeared to make contact with Sanchez on the edge of the box, but Sanchez appeared to embellish the contact and no penalty was given. Eventually, Ramos' errors would catch up with him and Madrid.
Raul Albiol, Madrid's replacement in defense for the injured Pepe, had an absolutely terrible first half filled with aggressive fouls. Incredibly, he did not see his first yellow card until the 51st minute, then toned down his aggression significantly. It was about that time that Barcelona started playing much better and looking much more comfortable with their attacking movement.
However, for all of Barcelona's pretty play and domination of possession, they couldn't produce a goal in the early going. Madrid did very little going forward throughout the match, but they got on the board first with a great set piece routine, finished off by Cristiano Ronaldo in the 55th minute. Mesut Özil provided the assist with a chipped cross into the box after the corner, and Ronaldo rose above the Barcelona defense to head the ball past Valdes.
They weren't able to celebrate their lead for very long. It took less than two minutes for Barcelona to find the equalizer, opening up the match considerably. With an uncharacteristic pinpoint long ball, Javier Mascherano set up the Blaugrana's first goal, hitting a perfect pass. Pedro picked it up and created a shot for himself with a perfect first touch, then placed the ball by Iker Casillas to tie up the score at 1-1.
For the next 13 minutes, the match was wide open with half-chances on both sides, but Ramos managed to end any chance of his side taking a win back to Madrid. In the 69th minute, he hauled down Andres Iniesta in the box and the referee correctly pointed to the spot. Messi stepped up and buried the penalty, putting Barcelona ahead.
The Blaugrana extended their lead in the 78th minute on a very typical Barcelona passing move, with Iniesta setting up Xavi for the goal. Iniesta timed his pass perfectly and somehow snuck a pass through two Madrid defenders, finding Xavi who barely stayed onside on his run. He finished calmly, extending Barcelona's lead
With a two-goal lead, the Blaugrana would have gone into Wednesday's second leg as heavy favorites to win the Super Cup, but Valdes gave Madrid a way back into the tie. He inexplicably gave the ball away to Angel Di Maria while dwelling on the ball in his own penalty area, and after Valdes failed multiple times to win the ball back, Di Maria scored from inside the six-yard box.
Barcelona can be pleased with their performance, but they've left themselves more work in the second leg than they should have had. If it wasn't for Valdes' error, this tie would be close to wrapped up. Instead, Barcelona are only very slight favorites.
You can find our previous coverage in our Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, 2012 Spanish Super Cup StoryStream. For more on the Blaugrana, head over to FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes. For more on Los Blancos, check out Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid.