Either Athletic Bilbao or Atlético Madrid lie in wait for Real Madrid after the LaLiga leaders beat Barcelona 3-2 after extra time in Saudi Arabia, to reach the final of the Spanish Super Cup.
A fifth win in a row against their Catalan rivals marked Madrid’s longest ‘El Clásico’ winning streak since 1965 and ‘Los Blancos’ dominated large periods of the game. As Barcelona, who have won a record 13 Spanish Super Cup trophies, showed character before eventually losing out.
The opening stages were spirited, with alarm bells ringing for the Barcelona backline as Vinícius Júnior threatened. The sight of his adversary, 38-year-old Dani Alves, may have brought back memories of ‘Blaugrana’ success, but he eventually lost his battle with the young Brazilian, after some great work by Karim Benzema to slip the winger in on goal. Under pressure from Ronald Araújo, Vinícius held his nerve and emphatically side-footed his effort into the roof of the net.
Barcelona’s response to going a goal behind was positive, with Ousmane Dembélé a shining light for the Catalans in what was otherwise a muted first-half showing. The winger was involved in Barcelona’s freakish equaliser just minutes before HT, after Luuk de Jong fortuitously converted the Frenchman’s cross after the ball hit him, bounced off Thibaut Courtois, and in off the post.
The Catalans appeared to emerge full of confidence after the break and the young midfield duo of Gavi and Pedri impressed. However, Madrid eventually recovered as Benzema curled a stunning effort against the post with 20 minutes to go. There would be no stopping the Frenchman though, as he tapped in just moments later, after seeing his initial effort superbly stopped by Marc-André ter Stegen.
Barcelona would not be deterred and found another equaliser through Ansu Fati who found himself unmarked in the box to head past Courtois, with little to split the sides as the whistle blew. Xavi’s men remained spirited throughout extra time, but the game had clearly taken its toll on ‘Barça’ legs, which allowed Madrid to dominate, before Federico Valverde poked home a dramatic winner after a brilliant dummy by Vinícius.