Tensions were high when both Real Madrid and Barcelona defeated their opponents (Valencia and Real Betis through penalty shoot-outs) in the semifinals of the Supercopa de España to face each other in a dream final. This was the fourth edition where the competition format was expanded into a four-team contest that included the champions and runner-ups from the Spanish La Liga and Copa del Rey in the previous season. The final in King Fahd International Stadium, Riyadh was the third time the competition had been played in the oil-rich Saudi Arabia, with Real Madrid winning the last two finals that were played in the Saudi soil.
Nonetheless, Los Blancos could not make it a hat-trick of wins in this competition since the changing of format to a four-team one three seasons ago as their El Clásico rival came out on top in the match to defeat the defending champion with a 3-1 victory.
Barca’s Total Domination
Both Carlo Ancelotti and Xavi made three changes to their sides who won the semifinal fixture in the competition, but it was the latter’s team that starred in the entire match. Real was caught in possession three minutes after the half-hour mark, allowing Robert Lewandowski to send a pass to the 18-year-old Spanish midfield prodigy Gavi in the penalty box, before the latter coolly finish with his left foot. Moments before the half-time whistle was blown, the same combination teamed up again to score for the Catalan Giants, with Gavi returning favour to his Polish teammate after another poor defensive player by the team in white. It was the Poland captain’s 20th goal in 22 appearances for his club this season.
Barcelona picked up where it left off in the second 45 minutes, and soon found the back of the net for the third time in the evening, with another Spanish midfield sensation Pedri scoring Barca’s third. The goal came after Gavi, who already had a goal and an assist to his name in the game, delivered a cross from the left that found Pedri who was unmarked in front of goal. Real did get a goal in the dying moments of the match, courtesy of its captain’s 11th tally in 16 games for Madrid this season. Karim Benzema’s goal gave Real a consolation but the 3-1 score line stayed till the end of 90 minutes plus added time, allowing the Catalan Giants to win its first Supercopa de España in the renewed format.
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What Say the Coaches?
During the post-match conference, Barcelona’s manager and former star player said that: “I am very happy and satisfied because I care a lot about how we win and, if we don’t play the way I think we should, I don’t leave satisfied. Winning conditions things a lot, but we always think about how” He also had high praise for his young but exceptionally talented player, Gavi, who was also the man of the match in the Supercopa de España final, stating that “He is a boy who excites us all when you see him compete like this. When you see him compete like that… the heart, soul and character that he plays with is contagious for the rest of team.”
Nonetheless, Ancelotti from the losing team of the final Real Madrid, admitted that mistakes his players gave away were the turning point of the game, for they could have been easily prevented. His response read “The players must realise that. These mistakes are easy to avoid. We gave away, it started even, there wasn’t much rhythm and avoiding gifts is the first thing, but we have given two. We have to improve our physical condition and play as a team.”
The top two teams in the Spanish La Liga, Real Madrid and Barcelona are set to face each other for the third time this season in March’s El Clásico, which will be a crucial league fixture in determining the eventual winner. Both teams are now 1-1 in their head-to-head record this season, with identical goal scoring and conceding records. Their third meeting this season will be played in Camp Nou, Barcelona’s home stadium.