Mario Mandzukic hasn't been a member of Atletico Madrid for long, but he'll soon become royalty there if his performance Friday in winning the Spanish Super Cup over Real Madrid is any indication.
The two sides entered the second leg tied with a 1-1 aggregate score, but it took just seconds for Mandzukic to change that. He scored in the second minute, finishing off a pass from Antoine Griezmann and just edging out Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane to slip it into the net.
Mandzukic was the difference, as Atletico Madrid rode a 1-0 scoreline to victory and held off their arch rivals to pull off the upset and win the Spanish Super Cup with a 2-1 aggregate score.
Bleacher Report UK captured the winner:
What a start for Atletico. New man Mario Mandzukic puts them ahead in the second minute: https://t.co/QoQDdkkgfl— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) August 22, 2014
His first official Atletico appearance came in Tuesday's first leg, but he quickly made a mark in his second cap with the reigning La Liga champs. It also didn't hurt that it came against the club's arch rivals in a match deciding one of Spain's biggest trophies.
It was also impressive in how quick it came. As Espcore noted, Mandzukic's goal was the fastest one ever scored in the Spanish Super Cup:
Mario Mandzukic's 81 second goal tonight was the quickest ever goal in the Spanish Super Cup history. pic.twitter.com/T2W2g6Gmvg— Espcore (@espcore) August 22, 2014
WhoScored.com revealed that Mandzukic's first look of the game reached the back of the net:
Mario Mandzukic: Has scored with his first shot of the game against Real Madrid— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) August 22, 2014
Mandzukic's goal put Atletico up on aggregate 2-1, but they know better than anyone of Real Madrid's ability to score goals in bunches. After the painful Champions League final loss in May, they weren't about to let it happen again.
Instead, the underdogs continued to find quality scoring chances and kept thwarting Real Madrid opportunities. Even after manager Diego Simeone was sent to the stands with a red card, they kept on pressing and stayed organized.
As you'd expect, tensions did flare between the rivals and Mandzukic wasted no time getting to know his new nemesis Sergio Ramos. The two collided for the first of many times this season on Friday, sparking a confrontation between the clubs that Church of Soccer poked fun at:
The former Bayern Munich striker made all the impact he needed to with his early goal, but replacing the departed Diego Costa is no small task. After the Spanish star's big 2013-14 season, some were watching Mandzukic with a more critical eye.
ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan admitted the Croatian looked good, but the deficiencies are there:
Mandzukic impressive so far, but definitely doesnt have pace of Diego Costa to chase balls down channels & let Atletico ease pressure.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) August 22, 2014
Football journalist Sid Lowe agreed, while concluding fellow new signee Griezmann will help to take the pressure off :
Mandzukic can't do that run through that Costa could. Griezemann can. Will be key part of Atletico's evolution.— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) August 22, 2014
There's no doubt that Mandzukic will have his hands full in manning the Atletico attack all season long, and nobody should expect that he'll match Costa's impact off the bat. But for his second official performance, netting the winner in a trophy-deciding match isn't too shabby.
As a unit, Atletico Madrid were unquestionably the stronger side. Real put in Cristiano Ronaldo in the second half to help bolster their attack, but the favorites never got close to equalizing.
The dominance of Simeone's side had ESPN FC's Nicholas Rigg complimenting the side:
Few writing champions @Atleti off before season even started. Got Madrid well and truly rattled here. Should be a force again this season— Nicholas Rigg (@nicholasrigg) August 22, 2014
Count Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl among those who wrote off Atletico after last season, but he's beginning to come around:
Thought Atlético Madrid's league title last season would be a one-off, but starting to reconsider here.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) August 22, 2014
ItalianFootballDaily.com's Marco Messina is among the majority who attributes Atletico's success to passion and heart:
Respect to Atletico Madrid and their fans. They are everything that's right in football, they play with heart and give 120% on the pitch.— Marco Messina (@Marcocalcio22) August 22, 2014
As entertaining as last season was in La Liga, 2014-15 could prove to be even better as Fox Soccer Trax noted:
Doesn't this set up a great La Liga season! Real won't win six trophies and Atletico won't go away despite several key changes— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) August 22, 2014
After last season's against-the-odds success and departures of Costa and Thibaut Courtois among others, few expected Atletico to continue winning at such a high rate. But here they are, winning another title.
Hardly anyone would look down upon Atletico for failing to contend in La Liga and top-flight European competition given who they have to face in Spain alone. That's especially so after the roster overhaul that took place in recent months.
But as Mandzukic and the rest of the squad showed Friday, there might not be any reason to write off last year's Cinderella story after all.