RIYADH: Real Madrid booked their place in the final of the 38th Spanish Super Cup with a 3-2 victory after a back-and-forth battle with arch rivals Barcelona at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh on Wednesday.
The most notable absence from the starting lineups was Real Madrid’s David Alaba, who was sidelined with muscular discomfort and replaced by Nacho. Meanwhile Dani Carvajal returned from injury to reclaim his spot in the Madrid starting 11 and Marco Asensio continued his run on the right wing, in preference to Rodrygo, after his stellar performance against Valencia at the weekend.
Ferran Torres made his long-awaited Barcelona debut after completing his move from Manchester City, and Dani Alves returned to play in yet another El Clasico.
The game began with Real Madrid on the front foot, as a strike from Karim Benzema within the first two minutes blazed over the bar after a promising run from Marco Asensio. Barcelona struggled to find their rhythm early on and were unable to put any sort of pressure on Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Asensio and Vinicius Junior’s consistent link-up play proved to be too much for the Barcelona defense to handle, as the pair kept on carving out chances but failed to convert them.
The breakthrough came in the 25th minute when Sergio Busquets was caught out in possession. Benzema received the ball from Luka Modric and in turn released Vinicius Junior, who found himself through on goal and finished off a beautiful sequence by scoring the first goal of the game.
Barcelona grew into the game as the half progressed and it became clear that their strength was the left wing, as crosses from Ousmane Dembele and Jordi Alba that found Luuk De Jong on multiple occasions.
They equalized in the 41st minute after a low, driven cross from Dembele was intercepted by Eder Militao. He could only clear it into the path of De Jong and the ball deflected off of him and into the goal.
Barcelona made two substitutions at the start of the second half, as debutant Ferran Torres and Frenkie de Jong were replaced by Pedri and Abde Ezzalzouli. These early changes nearly paid off, as Pedri’s introduction in particular gave his team more dynamism in the midfield.
Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti made his first change of the game on the 67th minute, with Asensio making way for Rodrygo. The change added venom to Real Madrid’s play and Benzema began to impose himself on the game. Shortly after the substitution he hit the woodwork after carving out a chance from nothing.
Real Madrid put themselves in the driving seat on 72 minutes after a Benzema shot was saved by Marc-Andre Stegen but fell for Carvajal. He cut it back to Benzema who found the back of the net.
But in the 83rd minute, against the run of play, Barcelona once again equalized when an Alba cross found the head of substitute Ansu Fati.
Still tied after 90 minutes, the game went into extra time and it was the Real fans who would be cheering when, eight minutes into the first period, Valverde scored what proved to be the decisive goal.
This 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 face each other in the second semi-final on Thursday at the same venue.