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April 27, 2017

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Atletico response denies James Rodriguez's dream start

MADRID -- A Raul Garcia equalizer two minutes from time denied James Rodriguez a dream home debut for Real Madrid as Atletico Madrid salvaged a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Tuesday.

Rodriguez had surprisingly started on the bench, but replaced Cristiano Ronaldo at half-time when the World Player of the Year was substituted due to the reported recurrence of a knee injury.

Colombian world cup star Rodriguez opened the scoring with his first goal for Real 10 minutes from time.

However, Atletico got a precious away goal to take into the return leg at the Vicente Calderon on Friday when Garcia flicked home a late corner from close range.

Despite leaving James and Angel di Maria on the bench from the off, Real boss Carlo Ancelotti saw his side dominate possession in the opening 45 minutes against a typically physical Atletico side.

However, Real created precious little in front of goal and it was Atletico who had the better chances in the first-half as both Mario Mandzukic and Saul Niguez forced Iker Casillas into smart saves down to his left.

Ronaldo's only impression on the match, before he departed, came four minutes before the break as he rose highest to meet Gareth Bale's cross, but couldn't get enough purchase in his header and the ball floated wide.

The Portuguese then made way for Rodriguez at the break and Real instantly made a greater impression on the Atletico goal as Bale's powerful right-footed effort was beaten away by Moya.

There was an escape for the Atletico 'keeper on his debut 20 minutes from time, though, as he could only parry Bale's fierce free-kick back into the danger area and Toni Kroos blazed over with the goal at his mercy.

Real continued to push in search of the winner and thought they had it on 80 minutes when Rodriguez fired home with the aid of a deflection off Cristian Ansaldi.

Yet Atletico responded with the kind of spirit that willed them to the La Liga title last season and Koke's fierce shot had to be turned away by Casillas.

There was nothing the Spanish captain could do moments later as the unmarked Garcia flicked home Koke's corner.

Real will now have to score at least once when they visit the Calderon later in the week if they are to continue their quest for six trophies this season having already collected the UEFA Super Cup with a 2-0 win over Sevilla last week.

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