Mario Mandžukić
Mario Mandžukić celebrates putting Atlético Madrid in front against Real Madrid in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup. Reuters

Mario Mandžukić’s first competitive goal for Atlético Madrid gave his new side a 1-0 victory over neighbors Real Madrid at the Vicente Calderon and a 2-1 aggregate win to claim the Spanish Super Cup for just the second time. The former Bayern Munich front man struck in just the second minute to give the La Liga champions the first bragging rights of the new Spanish season and the slightest of measures of revenge for their defeat to the same opponents in the Champions League final just three months ago.

After a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu earlier in the week, Mandžukić’s goal allowed Atlético to play in their favored counter-punching style. Madrid, despite coming close through new signing James Rodriguez and late on Sergio Ramos could not find a way through their typically resilient rivals. And, by the end, they were playing with 10 men after Luka Modric's late sending off for picking up a second yellow card.

Madrid will not dwell long on the defeat, with several of their key players, including Cristiano Ronaldo, who only appeared as a substitute, not yet up to full speed. Still it was an impressive early statement for Atlético. After losing several of the key figures in their championship-winning side this summer, Diego Simeone’s side promise to again mix it with their more expensively assembled rivals. Mandžukić, one of the biggest summer arrivals, again gave a strong hint that he could seamlessly replace departed star striker Diego Costa, both in terms of goals and work rate.

Before the game even settled into a pattern, Atlético were in front. Twice Madrid’s defenders failed to deal with high balls, first as Raphael Varane was easily eaten by Mandžukić to goalkeeper Miguel Ángel Moyà’s long punt forward, before Sergio Ramos was out-jumped by Antoine Griezmann. The France international’s header found his new forward partner, who, having escaped the attentions of Varane, met the ball first time with a crisp low finish into the corner.

The early goal to go ahead in the tie suited Atlético to a tee. They could now sit back and allow their opponents to assume the responsibility of finding a response. There was little sign of that happening until the derby erupted into familiar controversy midway through the opening half. Having suffered a cut to his lip, Atlético right-back Juanfran was forced off the pitch and then refused permission to come back on by the referee as Madrid went forward and James Rodríguez so nearly scored, only to be denied by Moyà. Diego Simeone, in trademark fashion, was furious, with plenty of justification. Yet to compound Atlético’s frustration, their manager was then sent from the touchline.

As the half wore on, the visitors took increasing control. Key to that was Rodríguez, who, allowed a roaming role, was beginning to have a real influence. The Colombian will be disappointed, though, that he didn’t add to his first goal for the club scored in the first leg when sending a free header from 12 yards wide of the target. He wasn’t the only Real Madrid player to miss a highly presentable chance. A fine incisive pass from Rodríguez set up teammate Gareth Bale, but, despite cleverly going past Diego Godin, he drilled a shot on his favored left foot inches past the post.

While Madrid were now threatening at the attacking end, they continued to be highly susceptible at the back, particularly to the aerial route. Raul Garcia, who equalized Rodríguez’s effort late on at the Bernabeu, really should have given Atlético some breathing space, but, stooping to get his head on a corner just six yards from goal, directed the ball over the crossbar. Straight after the restart the midfielder with an eye for goal came even closer to finding the net. Again Madrid, and again Fabio Coentrao, were caught out from a set-piece, this time to allow Garcia to meet a free-kick with a volley that came back off the underside of the crossbar and just came down the wrong side from the home fans’ point of view.

Garcia soon came close with a curling effort from the edge of the box, but, while unable to get a second goal, Atlético were now largely untroubled at the back. Rodríguez’s influence waned and he was soon taken off to be replaced by Isco. Modric’s second yellow card, for a foul on Cristian Rodríguez appeared to end Real Madrid’s hopes. But in injury time, just as he did at the same stage of the Champions League final, Ramos got on the end of a cross with the goal beckoning. This time, though, rather than breaking Atlético hearts and securing extra time, he failed to make good contact and the chance and Madrid’s hopes had gone.

Mario Mandzukic Goal ~ Atlético Madrid vs MaherZain