Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 3-2 at Camp Nou and the best thing that happened to José Mourinho's team was the score. Andrés Iniesta had just delivered another wonderful pass when Angel Di María scored the goal that changes this final entirely.
The roar at the final whistle disguised Catalan frustration. The Spanish Super Cup should have been virtually theirs. It is not. Two away goals change everything: a 1-0 win in the second leg in six days' time would be enough for Real. The game was 85 minutes old when Iniesta slotted a cleverly angled ball to Lionel Messi well inside the penalty area. One on one with Iker Casillas, Messi was unable to take the chance. Gerard Piqué, following up, could not either. Had he scored, it would have been Barcelona 4-1 Real Madrid.
Few would have questioned its validity, either. But in the blink of an eye, it was 3-2. Victor Valdés collected a simple back bass and saw Di María running at him. He tried to dribble past the Argentinian. Instead, he lost control, lost his balance and lost the ball. Barcelona lost a huge advantage. They had dominated, even if it did take a Cristiano Ronaldo header to finally bring goals to a fascinating game and to give Barcelona the incisiveness that their precision had previously lacked.
For so much of this match, the ball zipped around the pitch at great speed, from Barcelona player to Barcelona player and back again. Iniesta was in the heart of the midfield and at times his footwork was barely believable, a master puppeteer. Messi too produced some sublime touches, dropping deep into the midfield, pausing, waiting, accelerating. To start with chances were few, though. When Piqué struck wide after 16 minutes it was the first shot but the pressure was building, the momentum set.
Real's sudden bursts forward were few. Alves then pulled back for Messi to strike wide. Ten minutes later, a familiar movement with an unfamiliar finish. Messi dashed right to left diagonally into the area, evading defenders. This time his shot flashed past the post. Pedro's shot was pushed over. And just before half time, Xavi Hernández was brought down by Raúl Albiol as he turned into the area.
Barcelona had dominated yet Real took the lead. Ozil's corner swung outwards from the right and Ronaldo beat Sergio Busquets and Alexis Sánchez to the ball to head in powerfully. It was the fourth Camp Nou clásico in a row in which he had scored. Real were one up. It was their first attempt on goal. But as suddenly as they had the lead they lost it.
All game Pedro had been on the left. Now he switched to the right. Javier Mascherano's pass, curling his way over 30 yards, was perfect; the touch, impeccable. Pedro controlled it in one and struck it hard past Casillas. Barcelona poured forward. As they did so Madrid threatened on the break. The game was alive. Messi and Alves combined, Ronaldo had a shot blocked, Messi switched passes with Iniesta, Alonso's 60 yard ball almost put Ozil in, only for his control to prove heavy. Just before Ozil's opportunity, Barcelona had gone 2-1 up. Iniesta wasat the heart of Barcelona's best moments and he was brought down by Sergio Ramos for the penalty from which Messi scored his 14th goal against Barcelona's greatest rivals.
With just under quarter of an hour to go, Iniesta had it again. Albiol and Khedira were passed, Ramos slid. None could stop him. Iniesta slid the ball into the path of Xavi. Faced by his old friend Iker Casillas, he calmly slotted the ball home. There was still time for Iniesta to deliver another wonderful assist. This time, though, Casillas did save. And at the other end, Valdés did not.