RIYAD: Real Madrid booked their places for the 38th Spanish Super Cup final with a 3-2 victory following a two-way battle with Barcelona rivals at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh on Wednesday.
The most notable absence from the starting XI was Real Madrid’s David Alaba, who was sidelined with muscle discomfort and replaced by Nacho. Meanwhile Dani Carvajal came back from injury to reclaim his place in Madrid’s starting XI and Marco Asensio continued his run on the right wing, preferably Rodrygo, after his outstanding performance against Valencia this weekend.
Ferran Torres made his long-awaited Barcelona debut after completing his transfer from Manchester City, and Dani Alves returned to play in another El Clasico.
The game started with Real Madrid on the front foot, as a strike from Karim Benzema in the opening two minutes soared over the bar after a promising run from Marco Asensio. Barcelona struggled to find their rhythm early on and were unable to put pressure on Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Asensio and Vinicius Junior’s constant bonding game proved too much for the Barcelona defense to handle as the pair continued to create chances but failed to convert them.
The breakthrough came in the 25th minute when Sergio Busquets was caught in possession of the ball. Benzema received the ball from Luka Modric and in turn freed Vinicius Junior, who found himself on goal and completed a great streak by scoring the first goal of the game.
Barcelona grew in the game as the half progressed and it became clear that their strength was the left wing, like crosses from Ousmane Dembele and Jordi Alba who found Luuk De Jong to several times.
They equalized in the 41st minute after a low, pushing cross from Dembele was intercepted by Eder Militao. He was only able to clear it in De Jong’s path and the ball deflected from him and into the goal.
Barcelona made two substitutions early in the second half, with debutants Ferran Torres and Frenkie de Jong being replaced by Pedri and Abde Ezzalzouli. Those early changes almost paid off, as the introduction of Pedri in particular gave his side more dynamism in the midfield.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti made his first change of play in the 67th minute, with Asensio making way for Rodrygo. The change added venom to Real Madrid’s game and Benzema started to take hold in the game. Shortly after the substitution, he hit the wood after carving out a chance out of thin air.
Real Madrid took control in the 72nd minute after a shot from Benzema was saved by Marc-Andre Stegen but fell in love with Carvajal. He brought it back to Benzema who found the bottom of the net.
But in the 83rd minute, against the run of the game, Barcelona equalized again when a cross from Alba found substitute Ansu Fati’s header.
Still tied after 90 minutes, the game went into extra time and it was Real fans who would cheer when, eight minutes into the first half, Valverde scored what turned out to be the deciding goal.
It was Madrid’s 100th El Clasico victory, and it earned them a place in Sunday’s final. Their opponents will be Atletico Madrid or Athletic Bilbao, who will meet in the second semi-final on Thursday at the same venue.