So the UEFA Super Cup came and went on a pleasant mid-August night in Tallinn on Wednesday. The game had a lot to live up to after all the build up and was kicking off very late, at 22.00 EEST, to make it an eight-in-the-evening start for fans of both teams back home in Spain. Most of the big names from both teams made an appearance on the pitch, though Belgian 'keeper Thibaut Courtois remained on the bench throughout in favour of yet another World Cup alumnus, Keylor Navas of Costa Rica. Angelo Palmeri gives us his post-match analysis of what turned out to be a pretty eventful game, followed by a gallery of photos of fans, players and everything connected with the event.
'¡Que partidazo!', Spanish for 'what a game!', was probably an oft-heard comment amongst fans streaming out of the A. LeCoq/Lilleküla Arena last night following an incident-filled Super Cup final which saw Atlético Madrid raising the trophy high against the backdrop of the August night sky in Tallinn.
Atlético's fans went mental when, during stoppage time at the end of the extra time period, Polish referee Marciniak whistled the end of a game which is set to be talked about for a while. It was significant since Real lost the first challenge of their first season after the departure of CR7 and Atlético won by scoring some absolute screamers, and showing good organisation in all the parts of the field.
Whilst it is true to say that Real suffered from Casemiro's injury: he left at the 76 minute mark, replaced by Ceballos, and Diego Costa netted the vital equalizer that sent the challenge to an extra thirty minutes which sealed the 'Colchoneros' triumph, Atlético nevertheless showed quality and pace.
We are quite confident in saying that when Diego Costa opened the score (less than a minute after kick-off ) there were probably still a lot of people queueing to get into the Arena, which gave the impression to TV viewers of some unsold seats, which officially was not the case (this was heightened after half-time when large swathes of seats were empty, though this was not because people had left - no chance of that - and may have been due to long queues for refreshments during the break).
Spanish striker Costa, rightly elected man of the match at the end of evening, was perfectly picked up at the end of a long pass and, once in the box, managed to pull out a diagonal shot from what looked an impossible position to score from.
However, it is safe to say Real shot-stopper Keylor Navas gave Costa a big helping hand by going down too early and letting the ball go in from his post. With the Atletì crowd at hand, the white-red striped number 19 started the celebrations party very quickly.
You might then have expected Atlético to have just parked the bus and waited for Real to take advantage of the lead, but instead Diego Simeone's men put extra pressure on the Real players thanks to a highly-organised defence and a concerted pressing forward in the Casa Blanca's half.
The attitude shown soon after the goal worked out as, shocked by the early goal and pushed in their bunker, Real had troubles in coming out. As soon as Atlético showed confidence in keeping the advantage until half time, Real found more spaces for their forays by using their fast men: Asensio, Marcelo, Bale and Carvajal were connecting well on both wings to give headaches to their counterparts.
Were Real to win this game, Benzema could have certainly laid claim to the man of the match title as the Frenchman was of great help to his team and a lot of trouble to the opponents.
He connected well with the midfield and was keen in one-one-one encounters against the white and red striped defenders, who had to resort to some pretty coarse manners in order to stop him.
It was eventually when given space that Benzema pulled out the equalizer (27 minutes): a perfect cross by Carvajal found the Lyon-born forward moving behind Savic's back and heading into Oblak's goal. To make things even with his Real counterpart, the Slovenian keeper also appeared less than impeccable on that occasion.
After pulling one back, Real seemed to have the upper hand since Asensio had a couple of chances to put Real in front again. This was the same Asensio who ended up as protagonist in a duel with Diego Costa, as the former seemingly pulled down the latter, which earned the Real number 20 a yellow card, the first of several of the game, and spurred Ramos to blame the Atlético striker for letting himself go down too easily while following a promising Atlético's counter.
After a few other Atlético attempts which had not given any trouble to Navas, Marciniak eventually whistled for the break after one minute of injury time, which had been used mainly to nurse Gareth Bale and Diego Costa after clashing heads at 18 minutes in an aerial challenge.
Penalty drama and late equaliser
Both Ramos and Costa stamped their signature on the game by netting one each, continuing as the great protagonists that they had started out as in the first half, in the second. For Real's captain it was a matter of being cold-blooded and sharp from the penalty spot as a handball by Juanfran, attempting to head the ball away from Benzema, ended up in a clumsy aerial challenge which convinced referee Marciniak to go for the extreme solution.
This was a decision which left Costa quite unhappy and ready to end up on the Pole's list of bad guys, with a yellow card. Ramos sent Oblak the wrong way after a penalty of the hesitant-mesmerising kind, and was able to celebrate right in front of the Atlético fans' stand, leaving the Colchoneros needing to track back again.
We were already three minutes past the hour mark at this point, which left Atlético with not very much time to revive hopes of pushing the game into extra time, if not make a complete comeback. The game, however, had not had a clear master throughout the second half, and this pattern continued even after Real took the lead, as both teams looked equally able to score resulting in what will be remembered as an open, entertaining and eventful game with very few tactical knots to solve.
Prior to Real taking the lead, World Cup finalist Luka Modric had at long last found his way on to the pitch as Julen Lopetegui decided to end Marco Asensio's game and send the Croatian wizard into the fray. This led to was a clear ovation from the crowd, especially the Estonian faction which, just a month ago, had openly cheered for Croatia in their World Cup semi-final and final games, broadcast on a giant screen in Freedom Square in Tallinn as was Wednesday's game, something mirrored in the households around the country.
The Real number 10, whose future in Spain looks still uncertain, gave several sparkles of his class and intelligence with and without the ball and also an attempt from distance which went over the bar (70 minutes). It took another substitute to inject fresh ideas into the game as Correa replaced a disappointingly dull Griezmann and created more than one issue between the Madrid lines.
Eventually, one of Correa's deep forays into the Real box produced one of the easiest assists to be tapped in by Diego Costa, who achieved his personal brace and exchanged the favour to Ramos by celebrating under the Real fans stand. So the game was now 2-2 and this was the full-time score which sent the teams into extra time, taking the match well beyond midnight and ruling out public transport as a means of getting home for any local fans.
It was a very lucky night for the chosen few who managed to bag a ticket to the Arena as they were all gifted with an extra half hour of good football, which is not a common phenomenon around these latitudes.
If some were already longing for a good old penalty shoot-out, Atlético simply solved the problem of a late-night climax to the game by shutting Real Madrid down in the first half of extra time.
With similar build-ups from the left flank, the Colchoneros were relentless in finding first Saul with a left-footed volley (99 minutes) and then Koke just a minute before the end of official extra time, to bring the score to as wide a margin as 4-2.
It could even have ended up 5-2 if Ghanaian Thomas Partey had not tripped on the grass when running two against one on an open field. Despite a lot of pressure from Real, Atlético were holding the game under tight control to the end and brought the win home.
Atlético fans' party in the stadium lasted until the very last player from the team left the pitch. The Super Cup leaves Tallinn, then, for the red and white half of Madrid, and gives Real fans pause for thought for the season ahead, opening this weekend.
The next appointment for the two teams to meet is set already in just a month and a half from as Real host Atlético on the 29 September in a regular La Liga fixture. This time it will happen far from our eyes here in Tallinn, overloaded as they are with images of such a spectacular game.
And whether Tallinn will get to host anything of the same calibre again any time soon we've yet to find out, but certainly this event seemed very well-organised and smooth running, with well-behaved fans in spite of being arch rivals, not to mention that the event delivered as promised on game night.
Angelo Palmeri is a Tallinn-based freelance sports journalist and football writer who hails from Bari, Puglia, Italy. He is a co-founder and head trainer of Rumori Calcio, a football team founded in 2015, whose first team currently plays in the Estonian III. Liga Northern. Rumori Calcio's website is here .
Gallery of last night's events
Editor: Andrew Whyte