Real Madrid needed “extra-time” to defeat FC Barcelona 3–2, in the 196th match-up of “El Clasico” for the semi-final of Supercopa de Espana. It was played on Wednesday evening in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; which is the 5th venue to ever to host the famed match-up.
Madrid has won five straight Classicos, their longest streak was seven in the 1950’s; and now leads the series 100-96 in the long, bitter rivalry that began in 1902.
“I’m sad and angry because it’s a Clasico defeat and we miss out on a trophy,” said recently hired Barca coach Xavi Hernandez. “But we dominated Madrid for large spells. We lack some experience, patience, responsibility. We made mistakes. We could have stopped their counters and been more responsible with the ball. We were close. We pushed Madrid back. It’s a shame.”
The former Barcelona star, Xavi, is under much pressure from to return one of the most dominant clubs in the world to their former glory. Barcelona has struggled, compared to their usual lofty position, for the past several years, and currently is in sixth place in La Liga; while heir greatest foe, Real Madrid, stands atop the league.
The coaches differed in opinion. “I don’t agree,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. “The game was even, they had more possession, and we used the counter. In the first half we deserved to win, we conceded (a goal) with some bad luck. The second half was more even, but I don’t think Madrid dominated Barca or that Barca dominated Madrid.” In actuality, Barcelona had a slight edge in possession 53 percent–47 percent.
Madrid scored the first goal in the 25th minute as Karem Benzima poked the ball away Sergio Busquets from behind at midfield. The loose ball was passed back to Benzima, who pushed it forward to Vinicius Junior up the left flank. Vinicius dribbled into the box taking a left-footed shot from nearly 10 yards away that beat the keeper, Andre ter Stegen, to the near upper left-corner of the goal.
Barcelona would draw even in the 41st minute as striker Luuk DeJong headed a cross high in the air to the outside corner to Ousmane Dembele, who then dribbled to the end-line toward the goal. Dembele attempted a short shot at the end-line that missed to the right. Madrid defender, Eder Militao, cleared the shot forward directly into an incoming leg from DeJong and into the near left-edge post to beat goalie Thibaut Courtois.
Benzema hit the left post with a shot from the right-center of the box in the 69th minute. Moments later, Benzema would succeed in the 72nd minute as he took a shot from the left side of the box to the right post that was parried away by ter Stegen, finding Dani Carvajal on the right, who then attempted to cross the ball between a defender and the goalie, to have it deflect off of her Stegen’s right boot. An incoming Benzama moved a step right into the deflected cross to bury a one-touch shot from seven yards in front of the goal to go up 2–1.
Both teams built up attacks and counters. Barcelona would draw even again in the 83rd minute and send the game to extra time. A back pass was played from a corner kick on the left to Jordi Alba; who then crossed the ball finding Ansu Fati, in the middle of the six-yard marker, for a glancing header into the bottom right-corner of the goal.
Madrid substitute midfielder Federico Valverde would be the heroic game-winning scorer in the 98th minute. A counter-attack began with Casemiro pushing the ball forward to Rodrygo, who dribbled inside the right edge of the box to make a cross back to three oncoming Madrid players. Vinicius played a beautiful “dummy” leaving the pass for an incoming Valverde, as Benzema stepped aside, who took one dribble and pounded the shot through the upper left side of the goal for the final lead of 3–2.
“This Barca can compete against anyone. We didn’t get the result but it was step forward despite the loss,” added Xavi after the game.
“I don’t know if it’s the best [Clasico], but it was one with a lot of anxiety and tension,” Benzema said. “We played until the end an important game, a difficult game, Barcelona are always a strong opponent.”
Real Madrid shall face the winner of the Thursday semifinal between Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao in Sunday’s final.