After a back-and-forth struggle with arch rivals Barcelona at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh on Wednesday, Real Madrid advanced to the final of the 38th Spanish Super Cup with a 3-2 triumph.
Real Madrid’s David Alaba, who was sidelined with muscular soreness and replaced by Nacho, was the most significant absentee from the starting lines. Meanwhile, Dani Carvajal returned from injury to retake his starting spot for Real Madrid, while Marco Asensio resumed his run on the right wing, ahead of Rodrygo, following his outstanding performance against Valencia at the weekend.
After completing his deal from Manchester City, Ferran Torres made his long-awaited Barcelona debut, and Dani Alves returned to play in yet another El Clasico.
After a great run from Marco Asensio, a drive from Karim Benzema flew over the bar within the opening two minutes, putting Real Madrid on the front foot. Early on, Barcelona struggled to get into a rhythm and were unable to put any pressure on Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The constant link-up play of Asensio and Vinicius Junior proved too much for the Barcelona defense to handle, as the pair continued to create chances but failed to convert them.
Sergio Busquets was caught out in possession in the 25th minute, and that was the game-changer. Benzema got the ball from Luka Modric and then released Vinicius Junior, who found himself through on goal and scored the game’s opening goal to cap off a fantastic sequence.
As the half progressed, it became evident that Barcelona’s strength was the left wing, with crosses from Ousmane Dembele and Jordi Alba finding Luuk De Jong on several occasions.
They equalized in the 41st minute when Eder Militao intercepted a low, driven cross from Dembele. He could only clear it into De Jong’s path, where it bounced off him and into the net.
At the start of the second half, Barcelona made two replacements, replacing debutant Ferran Torres and Frenkie de Jong with Pedri and Abde Ezzalzouli. Pedri’s entrance, in particular, gave his squad more dynamism in the midfield, and these early alterations nearly paid dividends.
On the 67th minute, Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti made his first substitution of the game, replacing Asensio with Rodrygo. Real Madrid’s play became more venomous as a result of the move, and Benzema began to assert himself in the game. After pulling out a chance from nothing, he hit the woodwork shortly after the switch.
On 72 minutes, Real Madrid took the lead after a Benzema attempt was stopped by Marc-Andre Stegen but rebounded to Carvajal. He returned the ball to Benzema, who was able to find the back of the net.
But, despite the odds, Barcelona equalized in the 83rd minute when an Alba cross struck the head of replacement Ansu Fati.
The game went into extra time with the score still tied after 90 minutes, and it was the Real fans who would be cheering when Valverde scored the game-winning goal eight minutes into the first session.
This was Real Madrid’s 100th El Clasico victory, and it qualified them for the final on Sunday. Atletico Madrid or Athletic Bilbao will be their opponents in the second semi-final, which will take place on Thursday at the same site.