Real Madrid romped to the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday, as they breezed past Barcelona 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu and to a 5-1 aggregate win.
With just four minutes on the clock, Marco Asensio offered another indication of his incredible talent, thudding a stunning 25-yard shot into the top corner. Karim Benzema grabbed the second the hosts' dominance deserved before the interval.
After the break, Barca did improve, with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez both hitting the woodwork in pursuit of a consolation. But Madrid were able to see the game out with ease, making a major statement of intent ahead of the new La Liga season.
Madrid carried a 3-1 advantage into the second leg after their emphatic win at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
From the off, the hosts were the stronger side, as they swarmed over the Blaugrana. Asensio scampered down the left, and Luka Modric's shot was well blocked after just two minutes.
The opener wasn't far behind, though, with Los Blancos' brightest young talent taking a grip of the game again. As he did in the first leg, Asensio picked up the ball from distance, chose his spot and struck a sweet shot beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
As Bleacher Report UK noted, Asensio is fast cementing his status as the prince of the Santiago Bernabeu:
B/R Football @brfootball
Cristiano knows what’s up. https://t.co/80RrjNqgT82017-8-16 21:24:10
Journalist Dean Bilton believes the Spaniard has what it takes to become the best player on the planet:
Dean Bilton @Dean_Bilton
Marco Asensio, bloody hell. He and Mbappe will be fighting over Ballon d'Ors for a decade #ElClasico2017-8-16 21:05:37
While Madrid sizzled, Barcelona toiled. The three-man defence utilised by manager Ernesto Valverde was being consistently exposed, while the midfield wasn't keeping the ball long enough to get Messi or Suarez into the game.
Los Blancos were so vibrant in comparison and came so close to doubling their advantage when Lucas Vazquez rattled a left-footed effort off the outside of the post. Barcelona were clinging on, but they were put out of their misery quickly.
Marcelo scampered down the left and fired the ball across into Benzema. The Frenchman's first touch set up the chance perfectly, and he slammed home from close range. As ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan noted, the Madrid No. 9 enjoys this fixture:
Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan
Benzema now has 9 goals & 6 assists for Benzema in 26 Clasicos. A lot of them lately since his Mourinho / cat days ended too.2017-8-16 21:41:58
At half-time, the visitors would have been delighted to get off the pitch, with the tie over and Madrid rampant.
Squawka's Muhammad Butt didn't mince his words in his assessment of Barca's first half:
Muhammad Butt @muhammadbutt
that was the worst I've seen Barcelona play for, oh, about a decade?2017-8-16 21:47:13
There was a reaction of sorts from Barcelona in the early stages of the second half, as they carried some threat in the final third. Messi went closest to reducing the deficit, as his shot crashed off the crossbar and back into play.
But it was Madrid who continued to control the ball and create chances, with Benzema and Asensio, in particular, running riot. Meanwhile, the Madridistas in attendance were beginning to rub it in:
B/R Football @brfootball
Real Madrid fans chanting ‘se queda’ when Pique got taken off 👀😂 https://t.co/FQ3VIaJKbx2017-8-16 22:18:13
With the match ambling to a conclusion, the hosts did start to become a little complacent in their play, allowing Barcelona to create more openings. Suarez should have got on the scoresheet after Sergi Roberto's shot was parried but could only guide his header onto the post.
Madrid took the final stages of the match as a chance to give new signings Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos a Bernabeu bow. Gareth Bale wasn't needed on the night, while Cristiano Ronaldo was sat in the stands, serving the first match of his five-game ban.
Meanwhile, Valverde was on his way an undesirable record, per Sky Sports Statto:
Sky Sports Statto @SkySportsStatto
Ernesto Valverde on course to become the 1st @FCBarcelona head coach to lose his opening 2 fixtures in 30 years, since Luis Aragones in 1987 https://t.co/6zdSKVQZE62017-8-16 22:42:05
At the final whistle, heads in blue and red jerseys were down, as their rivals in white celebrated. Barcelona, having sold Neymar, are a team in need of a major spark ahead of the season. They lack cohesion, confidence and attacking thrust.
By contrast, Madrid almost teased their rivals, drawing on the incredible talent and depth in their squad to dominate back-to-back matches. As things stand, it's difficult to see how any side in Spain, including Barcelona, will halt them in 2017-18.