Even without Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid proved they can beat the best anytime, anywhere.
And that will be more than special when it was done against their bitterest of rivals – Barcelona.
Ronaldo watched from the stands as the Los Blancos battered Barca 2-0 in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup for a masterful 5-1 win on aggregate at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Thursday.
Before the game, Ronaldo was in the headlines after his appeal on his five-match ban was rejected by the Spanish football federation.
He called the decision as “persecution.’’
But even without him, the La Liga and European champions were dominating against their arch enemies on the pitch.
Attacking midfielder Marco Asensio, who also converted in the 3-1 first-leg win at Camp Nou, sent Madrid to the lead just in the fourth minute with a brilliant 25-yard strike.
And then in the 39th minute, Karim Benzema picked up Marcelo’s cross and danced past Barca defender Samuel Umtiti for the hosts second goal.
Barca looked finished from thereon even as Real somewhat lowered their guards in the second half.
Woes came for the visitors when Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez hit the woodwork.
So after less than two years as manager, Zinedine Zidane has already guided Real to two Champions Leagues, and the 2016-17 La Liga title.
Ronaldo was not missed on the pitch, with Zidane having even the luxury to leave Isco and Gareth Bale on the bench as they gird for Sunday’s La Liga opener against Valencia.
The 21-year-old Asensio slotted home the opening goal that left Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen stunned.
Asensio was given a standing ovation when he was substituted by 19-year-old defender Theo Hernandez with 15 minutes left.
Benzema added a second with a great two-touch goal, and Real could slow things down after the break, knowing Barcelona did not look capable of scoring four unanswered goals.
For sure, Ronaldo heaved a great sigh of relief after seeing his squad get the job done.
In Cristiano’s mind, there could be some thoughts about Asensio that even when he is no longer the team’s main man, there is another one who can fill the void.