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 Real Madrid 2-0 Barcelona (agg: 5-1); Asensio 4, Benzema 39  • Rivals pile on the misery for Barcelona.

Asensio stunner helps Real Madrid brush aside Barça for Super Cup success

The second leg of Spanish Super Cup was only four minutes old when a smile stretched across Zinedine Zidane’s face. Real Madrid had just taken the lead, Marco Asensio’s wonderful 35-yard effort dipping past Marc-André ter Stegen, but Zidane did not leap into the air, clench his fists or scream; it was just that smile, appearing easily, almost gently, as if he was not just enjoying this – he had expected it. Already 1-0 on the night, it was 4-1 on aggregate and his team were on course to win the seventh title they have collected in only 18 months under him.

By the end, it was 2-0, 5-1 on aggregate, after Karim Benzema added a second past the half-hour. Madrid had the victory, the title and the promise of more, too. Past 1am they paraded the trophy and if the silverware was something to celebrate, the sense of security was another. Such a contrast to Barcelona, who stood and watched them collect it, well beaten. Maybe that had been expressed best in Zidane’s smile. The opening goal had the ingredients to be a surprise but did not feel like one, somehow.

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Three quick thoughts from the Santiago Bernabeu as Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-0 for a 5-1 aggregate victory in the Spanish Super Cup.

1. Asensio stars as Madrid stroll to another trophy

Real Madrid strolled to the 2017 Super Cup with a 2-0 victory over Barcelona at the Bernabeu on Wednesday, sealing a thumping 5-1 aggregate win over their rivals to start the Spanish season in the best possible way.

Suspended Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo was barely missed as a Marco Asensio screamer made it 1-0 on just four minutes, Karim Benzema added a second before half-time and although Barca improved after the break they never looked close to a comeback. The victory was even more impressive given coach Zinedine Zidane had shuffled his squad and left usual starters Gareth Bale, Isco and Casemiro on the bench.

Barca’s chances of overturning the 1-3 deficit were pretty much gone before the game had settled down. A rushed Samuel Umtiti clearance fell to Asensio 35 yards from goal. He took a touch, steadied himself and launched a “folha seca” right into the far top corner. Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen watched motionless, with the Bernabeu also awestruck at the youngster’s latest moment of magic.

Lots of players have trademark goals, but little more than a year into his top-class career, Asensio is earning a reputation as someone who regularly just sticks the ball right in the top corner from well outside the penalty area. Even at 21, he now looks more likely to light up a game with a golazo than Bale, or even Ronaldo himself.

With Barcelona stunned, a second goal was coming. Benzema robbed a napping Javier Mascherano and played in surprise starter Lucas Vazquez, who struck a post. Soon afterward Sergio Busquets was dispossessed near his own area, and seconds later the Frenchman nipped in front of his countryman Umtiti to flick the ball up and dispatch an eight-yard volley into the net.

Barca tried to hit back in the second half, with both Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez hitting the woodwork. But it was plain sailing really from an all-powerful Madrid who must surely be favourites to win everything — at home and abroad — this season.

2. Barca in disarray before the season starts

As Madrid took control in the first half, all over the pitch Barca players were struggling. The three-centre-back system used by new coach Ernesto Valverde in theory suited many in their side, but most looked uncomfortable and unsure of their roles. Even experienced players like Busquets, Mascherano and Jordi Alba were having shockers.

Barca were even well beaten in the possession stats at half-time, by 56 to 44 percent, something unheard of in the past decade, even against Madrid. Valverde’s men had just one shot at goal in the first 45 minutes, Suarez volleying well over the top to jeers from the Madrid fans.

Things did not improve much after the break, with Gerard Pique soon coming off injured, and Madrid fans joyously reminding him as he left of the infamous “se queda” (“he’s staying”) tweet about Neymar before the Brazilian left last month.

Captain on the night Messi then sprang to life, darted into the box and shot past Keylor Navas, but the ball struck the crossbar and bounced away to safety. Suarez also hit the post with a diving header after Navas had saved from the Blaugrana No. 10, as the Catalan side looked to regain some pride.

Valverde is now just the third coach in history to lose both his first two competitive games as Barca coach. There is widespread sympathy for the former Blaugrana winger, whose job has been made extra difficult by the Camp Nou hierarchy’s disastrous summer transfer market.

Everyone at the club has a huge amount of work to do, and quickly, to get their season back on track.

3. Ronaldo controversy can’t overshadow Zidane’s achievements

Since Madrid had last played at home, any game, they had won May’s Champions League in Cardiff, last Tuesday’s European Super Cup in Skopje, and of course gone to the Camp Nou and won 3-1 last weekend. Wednesday should have been billed as a celebration of such success, but instead the absence of Ronaldo overshadowed almost all of the build-up.

With the Portugal captain suspended after his first-leg red card and push of the referee, he was sat in the stands wearing a designer tracksuit as supportive chants of “Ronaldo! Ronaldo!” rang around the Bernabeu in minute 7. The accompanying white hankie “panolada” protest at recent refereeing decisions was half-hearted, however, as most fans were still marvelling at Asensio’s wonder goal and their team’s overwhelming of their rivals.

All over the pitch Madrid were on top. Benzema and Luka Modric were thoroughly enjoying themselves, while lesser-profile players like Mateo Kovacic and Vazquez were looking way more accomplished than their Barca counterparts. There were whoops of delight from the majority of the 75,167 crowd as Dani Carvajal nutmegged Suarez, moments before Modric outfoxed Andre Gomes. Summer signings Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos must have enjoyed their first Bernabeu outings as Madrid players as second-half subs.

Down on the sideline Zidane watched impassively, with just the hint of a smile, as around him fans celebrated joyously. This was his second Super Cup in little more than a week, a seventh trophy won in only 20 months in charge. He is doing an incredible job, and even for a club as storied as Madrid these are heady days to be a Bernabeu fan.

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BREAKING NEWS: Barcelona have signed Paulinho from Guangzhou Evergrande for £36.5m

Football Club Barcelona have signed Brazil international Paulinho for a reported 40 million pounds. The Goungzhou Evergrande enforcer  agreed a five year deal with the Camp Nou based side to end his two year stint in China.

The 29 year old left Tottenham Hotspurs in the summer of 2015 after failing to impress the London based side but has since found his missing soul in the Chinese Super League. The Brazil international registered 10 goals in his 67 appearances from midfield position during his spell at the White Hart Lane and will be expected to play a crucial role for the Blaugrana in the upcoming season as the search for a new leader continues in the camp of FC Barcelona.

The former Corinthians midfield enforcer has been a top priority for new Barcelona trainer, Erneste Valverdo, since taking over in the off season.

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McGregor holding steady with Mayweather on betting lines

Reports of conflict between Conor McGregor and his sparring partners have grabbed the headlines in the weeks leading up to his highly anticipated fight with boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr.

However, that has done little to impact the UFC lightweight champion’s odds of handing Mayweather his first-ever defeat, which have held steady at +375 (wager $100 to win $375).

Trash talk has been the hallmark of the promotional events they’ve held leading up to their Aug. 26 matchup at T-Mobile Arena. The two fighters did set the tone for their upcoming clash during a four-city tour earlier this summer, but even those outrageous events have been overshadowed by claims from former sparring partner Paulie Malignaggi, who spoke earlier in the month of McGregor’s weakness in the ring and mistreatment of his sparring partners.

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So close, but it’s a silver for Wayde van Niekerk!

Wayde van Niekerk. Photo: EPA

He almost made it to the finishing line in front, but Wayde van Niekerk was just pipped to the line in the 200m final at the IAAF World Championships in London on Thursday night.

Van Niekerk took the lead coming off the bend, and seemed to have the gold medal in the bag.

But Turkish sprinter Ramil Guliyev put in an extra burst just before the line and dipped ahead of Van Niekerk to win in 20.09, with Van Niekerk second in 20.11.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards had the same time as Van Niekerk, but was awarded the bronze.

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Bodybuilder Thabete dies in freak accident

An unlucky freak accident has cost a KwaZulu-Natal bodybuilder, Sifiso Lungelo Thabete his life during a competition.

Thabete died after he unsuccessfully attempted a back flip during the competition and broke his neck.

In a video circulating on social media, Thabete can be seen attempting the back flip while running forward. He then lands on the ground and he never got up again.

Messages of condolences have flooded social media since his passing.

According to a FaceBook post by one of Thabete’s friends his funeral service will be held at K Section Hall at uMlazi, Durban on Saturday. He will reportedly be laid to rest at the Wentworth Cemetery.

Thabete was an accomplished body builder and an International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Junior World Champion in the up to 75kg category.

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Who will be Premier League champions?

We have seen six different champions since the Premier League started 25 years ago, but will someone different win it this time?

Liverpool and Tottenham are among the teams hoping that will be the case or, at the very least, that they can finish in the top four.

But will Chelsea defend their title? Can Pep Guardiola conquer England with Manchester City? Are Arsenal contenders… or will Manchester United come good?

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