James Rodriguez scored on his Real Madrid debut, but was denied the winning goal by a late Atletico Madrid equaliser in the first leg of the Supercopa de Espana at Santiago Bernabeu.
The £63 million World Cup star came on for Cristiano Ronaldo at half-time, and put his new side ahead with 10 minutes remaining. But Raul Garcia struck the equaliser for Atletico two minutes from time, leaving the contest finely poised with the second leg to be played at Vicente Calderon on Friday.
The defending La Liga champions have endured somewhat of a clear-out this summer and fielded three debutants with Miguel Angel Moya in goal, while Guilherme Siqueira played at left-back and big signing Mario Mandzukic spearheaded the attack.
Just the one new purchase started for the Copa del Ray champions, as World Cup winner Toni Kroos was part of a three-man midfield alongside Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric.
Di Stefano tribute
An emotional tribute was observed prior to kick-off in honour of Real legend Alfredo di Stefano, who passed away last month at the age of 88. During his 11-year spell with Los Blancos, he scored a whopping 305 goals in 392 appearances and was later named Honorary President of the club.
It was a repeat of the UEFA Champions League final back in May and like then, Atletico had the better chances in the first half. A mistake from Sergio Ramos on 15 minutes allowed Saul Niguez to race into space, before his effort was well held by Iker Casillas.
Mandzukic also had a couple of sniffs at goal, but shot straight at the veteran keeper on both occasions. The Croatian was then involved in a huge flashpoint 14 minutes into the second half.
He barged heavily into Ramos from an aerial challenge, leading to the defender throwing a punch into the striker’s face. The incident clearly wasn’t spotted by the referee who showed both players a yellow card, with Ramos very fortunate to stay on the field.
Gareth Bale had stung the palms of Moya early in the second period and did so again with a free-kick midway through, only for Kroos to fire over from what was a sitter of a rebound.
James scores first goal; Garcia equalises
The German got the ball rolling in the build-up to his side breaking the deadlock with 10 minutes remaining. He found Daniel Carvajal, whose cross from the right found Karim Benzema in the area. The striker couldn’t get his shot away but the ball broke kindly for Rodriguez, who saw his shot bundle home via a minor deflection off Cristian Ansaldi.
That looked like it would be enough to give Carlo Ancelotti’s side the advantage going into the second leg but Diego Simeone’s men had other ideas, as slack marking from the hosts allowed Garcia to flick home Koke’s corner.
Real were then denied a penalty in the dying moments, as Ansaldi's handball from Carvajal's goal-bound effort wasn't spotted by the referee.
So, honours even at the Bernabeu. Chances were few and far between and although Atletico have lost some key players from last season’s title success, they certainly still have that grit, determination and never-say-die attitude embedded within their systems.
Their rivals look very exciting going forward with their envious attacking options, but they need to create a lot more chances for themselves if they are to really light up this La Liga campaign.
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