By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Cristiano Ronaldo scored a sensational goal and was then sent off for a combination of his provocative celebration and for diving as Real Madrid beat Barcelona 3-1 in an explosive Spanish Super Cup first leg on Sunday.
Gerard Pique scored an own goal early in the second half to give Real the lead in the annual curtain raiser between the Liga champions and the King’s Cup holders although Lionel Messi looked to have saved his blushes by scoring a controversial penalty in the 77th minute after Luis Suarez was fouled.
Substitute Ronaldo rattled in a sensational strike from outside the area three minutes later to restore the Liga and European champions’ advantage, earning a booking for removing his shirt and mimicking Messi’s celebration at the Santiago Bernabeu in last April’s Clasico.
Ronaldo was given a second yellow card moments later for diving to attempt to win a penalty and will miss Wednesday’s second leg at the Bernabeu. After he was ordered off, the Portuguese pushed referee Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea in frustration.
Barca rallied late in search of an equaliser but Spanish forward Marco Asensio instead extended Madrid’s advantage in the tie with a scorching strike from outside the area in the 90th minute to cap a thrilling second half.
“These games are like this, you switch off for one second and relax and loads of things happen, but I’m very happy with the game,” said Real captain Sergio Ramos.
“We’re fighting for a trophy and this is an important step.”
Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets said: “A 3-1 defeat at home is very difficult to take; the tie seems very tough for us now but we’ll try and make a go of it, even though we’ve made it almost impossible for us.
“Whoever scores first in these games has a huge advantage, and Madrid did very well on the counter-attack.”
The highly entertaining second period was in stark contrast to a sleepy opening 45 minutes which lacked the atmosphere associated with football’s biggest rivalry due to the game not selling out and with a large number of tourists present.
Barca failed to sparkle, with Gerard Deulofeu proving an unfit substitute for the departed Neymar, while Real looked lightweight up front without Ronaldo, who began on the bench, and lacking creativity in the absence of the suspended Luka Modric.
The game burst into life after the break, however.
Pique, who scored the winner in the pre-season Clasico in Miami and who has so often turned up the heat in the rivalry both on and off the pitch, inadvertently broke the deadlock by diverting Marcelo’s cross into his own net.
Barca suddenly woke up and were denied an equaliser due to a brilliant double save by Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
The Costa Rican was left fuming moments later though when he was adjudged to have brought down Suarez, with the Uruguayan appearing to dive to win the penalty.
Messi levelled from the spot, scoring for the first time against Real at the Nou Camp since 2012, but he was soon upstaged at the other end by Ronaldo.
Asensio had the last word, however, the 21-year-old producing a stunning strike and putting Madrid well in charge in their pursuit of a first Super Cup since 2012.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)