JAVIER SORIANO/Getty Images
Atletico Madrid scored twice in extra time to beat Real Madrid 4-2 in a thrilling game and win the 2018 UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday.
Diego Costa got Atletico Madrid off to the perfect start. He lashed the opener past goalkeeper Keylor Navas after just 49 seconds, the quickest goal ever scored in a UEFA Super Cup final.
Real Madrid hit back just before the half-hour mark when Gareth Bale raced down the right flank and crossed for Karim Benzema to head home at the far post.
Sergio Ramos then put Los Blancos ahead in the second half after Juanfran was penalised for handball. The captain sent goalkeeper Jan Oblak the wrong way with his spot-kick.
Costa grabbed his second of the game from close range to send the game into extra time, before Saul Niguez brilliantly volleyed Thomas Partey’s cross into the top corner to put Atletico Madrid ahead.
Koke then wrapped the game up six minutes later, as he side-footed home Vitolo’s pass for Atletico’s fourth of the night.
Bale Will Have Breakout Season in Ronaldo’s Absence
Bale has been under scrutiny since Cristiano Ronaldo departed for Juventus, and so far in pre-season, the Wales international has proved he has what it takes to be Real Madrid’s main man.
He was at it again on Wednesday night, setting up the equaliser with a charge down the right flank. He then produced a superb cross for Benzema to head past Oblak.
Squawka Football showed how effective Bale has been:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Gareth Bale’s last nine appearances for Real Madrid:
⚽️ vs. Barcelona
⚽️⚽️ vs. Celta Vigo
⚽️ vs. Villarreal
⚽️⚽️ vs. Liverpool
❌ vs. Man Utd (friendly)
⚽️ vs. Juventus (friendly)
⚽️🅰️ vs. Roma (friendly)
⚽️ vs. AC Milan (friendly)
🅰️ vs. Atlético https://t.co/HEayJT90dQ
Another foray down the left flank almost produced a second goal. Bale found Marco Asensio on the edge of the box in acres of space, but the Spain international took too long and the chance was gone.
Sportswriter Andy West offered his view:
Andy West @andywest01
Really terrific play by Gareth Bale, culminating in perfect cross with his weaker right foot. He’s on fire at the moment and will have a huge season *if* he stays fit.
Bale produced another quality delivery for Marcelo to win it with the last kick of normal time. However, the Brazilian could not quite get the connection he wanted, and the chance went begging.
Fitness is the big issue with Bale. The 29-year-old’s career at the Santiago Bernabeu has been interrupted by a series of problems, but if he can stay healthy, he may enjoy his best season yet.
Navas Shows Why Courtois Should Be the First Choice
Real Madrid brought in Thibaut Courtois over the summer, but the goalkeeper did not make the squad for the match. ESPN FC’s Dermot Corrigan explained why:
Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan
Madrid goalkeeper-watch – Keylor starts tonight, both Casilla and Lunin are on the bench. Zidane in the stands with Courtois, who they didn’t bother registering as this not game for his debut really.
In his absence, Navas started in goal for Los Blancos. However, the Costa Rica international conceded in the first minute.
It was a poor goal for Real Madrid to concede. Costa beat both Ramos and Raphael Varane. He then smashed the ball past Navas at his near post.
Former goalkeeper David Preece was critical of Navas’ positioning:
David Preece @davidpreece12
Absolutely no need for Navas to be that far past his near post. Especially crouching, hands low. Gives the chance of the pace on the ball to beat him. If he holds his ground at his near post he has more time to react and more likely to save #RMAATL https://t.co/HRnzpa7eHY
Navas went on to concede four, although he had little chance with any of the other goals such was the quality of Atletico’s finishing.
Manager Julen Lopetegui now has a tough decision to make over which goalkeeper to start when Real Madrid open their league campaign on Sunday.
Navas will have been hoping to impress against Atletico having seen Courtois arrive. However, his performance will have undermined his cause and gives Lopetegui the perfect reason to start Courtois on Sunday.
Lemar Looks a Perfect Fit for Diego Simeone
Atletico Madrid signed Thomas Lemar from Monaco over the summer, which looked an astute signing by Diego Simeone’s side.
The France international started the game and put in a performance which suggested he is a perfect fit for Atletico Madrid.
The World Cup winner worked hard, tracked back and added craft in midfield. Sports journalist Robbie Dunne offered his view:
Robbie Dunne @robbiejdunne
Lemar getting through plenty of work defensively already. Looks like he has completely bought in and looks like the player they wanted Carrasco to be.
Lemar seems to understand what Simeone demands from his players and slotted in well in what was his first competitive outing for his new club.
La Liga writer Andrew Gaffney was also impressed:
Andrew Gaffney @GaffneyVLC
Since Lemar moved centrally, he’s looked really good. Quick feet coupled with a low centre of gravity mean he’s been tough to stop.
The Frenchman seemed to lose his way last season at Monaco. He will be hoping he can regain the form he showed when he helped the Ligue 1 side win the title in 2017.
Lemar also looks as though he can be a significant upgrade in midfield, which will be needed as Atletico go for glory in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League.
Real Madrid begin their La Liga campaign on Sunday at the Santiago Bernabeu against Getafe. Atletico Madrid are in action a day later, as they head to the Mestalla Stadium to take on Valencia.