La Liga leaders heading to Supercopa final after extra time win – Sport Media News

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Barcelona is slowly finding its way again, but Real Madrid still has more quality. That was the verdict of the first El Clasico of the calendar year in a Supercopa semifinal which saw Real Madrid emerge 3-2 winners in extra time.

The decisive goal was scored in extra time by substitute Federico Valverde, who finished a deadly breakaway and put Madrid up to stay. Forwards Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior gave Real Madrid two separate leads during regulation with quality strikes, only for Barcelona to fight back through a lucky Luuk de Jong deflection and an Ansu Fati header with seven minutes left.

Real Madrid advances to Sunday’s Supercopa final in Saudi Arabia, where the La Liga leaders will face either Atletico Madrid or Athletic Bilbao. The Spanish Supercopa pits the winner and runner-up of La Liga against the winner and runner-up of the Copa del Rey cup competition.

Real Madrid continues to march on in a dominant season so far under manager Carlo Ancelotti. It has a five-point lead in La Liga — 17 points ahead of Barcelona — and the Merengues are also in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 and the Copa del Rey Round of 16. They’ll hope to come away with the first piece of silverware of the season in the Supercopa final on Sunday.

Barcelona will leave Saudi Arabia content with its display as it continues to make progress under Xavi Hernandez. The team showed character to bounce back and it gained confidence as the minutes went on. Ousmane Dembele and Luuk de Jong made solid contributions in attack, and Ansu Fati had another moment of magic.

Ferran Torres made his debut for Barcelona as a starter in the match, but he had a quiet first half playing on the right wing of a three-man front. Two important players made their return for the Blaugrana: Rising star Pedri played his first match since September, and Ansu Fati was back for his first action since Nov. 6.

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“For the first 20 minutes we still showed a complex from recent times, but we got rid of those complexes and we competed,” said Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez. “We’re not so far from what the La Liga standings reflect.

“We had it. We had it. It was a game that was a coin flip and it turned out one way, but it could’ve turned out another. We’re proud. We competed and we have to continue on this path.

“Although the result is a bad one, and we’re going home, we’re leaving proud. We had the game. I’m leaving sad and angry because we could have won the game. But we competed well and could have advanced to the final. It’s a pity.”

Gerard Pique struck a similar tone to his head coach in his postgame interview: “I think as far as the level of play, we were good. We took risks. We went after the game, we took on a lot of risks. In the end they won the semifinal on a counter on which we could’ve gotten back [to defend]. They came with numbers in the box and scored the third. But I’m very, very proud of the team. Playing like this, we [Barcelona] can begin to win and compete for titles.”

Real Madrid goal-scoring hero Valverde was impressed by what he saw from the opponents: “They’re still Barcelona even if the results haven’t been there. They’re a good team with good players and they showed they have a desire to win … In my opinion, I think we have to convert more of the chances that we get. We could’ve finished off the game earlier. That’s part of the game, and things we can improve on.”

Karim Benzema was named Most Valued Player in the Clásico semi-final of the Spanish Super Cup. The French striker, who played the full 120 minutes against Barcelona, set up Vini Jr. for his side’s first goal and scored the second to make to 2-1 to Madrid at the King Fahd Stadium: “I’m thrilled and feel very proud. The fans were great. They give me more confidence and the strength to do what I do on the pitch and I’d like to thank all the fans here for that”.

“I don’t know if Madrid is the best team in Europe. But what I can tell you is that Madrid is the best club in the world. But we have to win trophies to be at the top”.

“I don’t know if it was the greatest, but it was one of the tensest because it went right until the end. It was a really important game because Barcelona are tough opponents who take control of the ball, but there are loads of Clásicos and this one was great because now we’re in the final, but I don’t know if it was the greatest”.

“My shoulder is ok, it’s just a knock. It was a very tough game. In my opinion we deserved to win, Clásicos are always very difficult to come out on top, Barcelona play good football and if you give them the ball they’re not going to give it you back. I think we deserved the win today because we were on the pitch fighting from the first minute to the last”.

Fatigue going into the final

“It’s normal to be tired after a game. You always give everything you’ve got in a Clásico and we’re aware that if you give them the ball just a bit, they can cause you problems and that’s not a good thing. You end up running left and right, but in the end it’s a good fatigue because we won and we’re in the final”. Benzema received a portrait painted by the artist Mr Dripping following the press conference as MVP.

The Blaugrana fought back twice to push their rivals all the way to extra time in the Supercopa de España semi-finals, before Federico Valverde eventually bagged a winner on the counterattack.

Both Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema had given Real the lead in regulation time, but responses from Luuk de Jong and Ansu Fati ensured that we enjoyed a five-goal thriller in Saudi Arabia.

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However, despite there being so many world-class stars on display at King Fahd International Stadium, we’d still put good money down that some fans were thinking back to older times.

What we mean to say is that El Clasico has undoubtedly lost 5-10% of its glitz and glamour due to the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi over the last few years.

That’s not to say that the game means any less to Barca and Real fans, far from it, but there’s no denying that the absence of the Ballon d’Or winners has taken away from its star-studded status.

However, it says everything about Ronaldo’s influence on the legendary fixture, in particular, that his presence was still felt in the clash despite not having played with Real for almost four years now.

That’s because footage has emerged from extra-time in Saudi Arabia where Ronaldo’s famous ‘Siu’ celebration was doing the rounds after Valverde had notched his winning goal for Real.

Around the 102-minute mark, one Ronaldo-loving supporter could be seen leaping in the air and turning to land in a powerful position just as the Portuguese icon does when he finds the net.

As confirmed by both ESPN and BT Sport, the fans’ stairwell antics were matched by a remarkably loud declaration of ‘Siu’ despite the fact that little to nothing was actually happening on the pitch.

You know Ronaldo’s influence is unmatched when he’s got stadiums partaking in his celebration when he’s not even playing and the only thing going on is Thibaut Courtois taking a goal-kick.

So, be sure to ‘Siu’ the celebrations for yourself by checking out the amusing stunt below:

Ronaldo’s ‘Siu’ celebration might be feeling more and more like a meme by the week, but this has to be one of the most remarkable instances that we’ve come across.

You know you’ve made a huge impact on one of sport’s greatest ever teams when the sound of your celebration is still reverberating around games you’re not playing in years down the line.

Well, either that or Saudi Arabian crowds are just particularly enamoured with the whole routine because Ronaldo really got a Jeddah crowd going in the 2019 Italian Super Cup to boot.

On that occasion, Ronaldo and the fans were in tandem with spine-tingling coordination, and no doubt the Manchester United star will have been chuffed to see them running it back again in 2022.

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Florentino Pérez, Barcelona president Joan Laporta and Royal Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales swapped gifts the half-time break in El Clásico. The Real Madrid president gave a commemorative jersey to the two officials as part of an event which took place in the VIP box of the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh.

(Jordi Blanco, corresponsal en Barcelona) — El Real Madrid jugará la final de la Supercopa después de eliminar al Barcelona (3-2) en un Clásico enorme que mostró tanto la capacidad de sufrimiento y de resolución merengue como el crecimiento, valentía y determinación de un Barça que no se rindió en ningún momento, que respondió al 1-2 de Benzema asumiendo un riesgo enorme y que durante muchos minutos sometió a base de fútbol a un rival al que le sonrió la fortuna gracias a su adaptación al argumento del partido.

Ganó el Madrid sabiendo entender que debía arremangarse en defensa para sobrevivir al asedio del Barça tras el empate de Ansu Fati. Fue un final de partido y principio de prórroga en que el equipo de Xavi mandó con una superioridad tan evidente como permitida por los de Ancelotti, más ocupados en esperar un error, otro, del rival que les permitiera dar el golpe.

Y lo dio el equipo merengue gracias a la concesión azulgrana. Si Busquets falló en el 0-1 y Alves estuvo despistado y lento en el 1-2, el 1-3 nació de una pérdida de Dembélé que permitió la salida supersónica y desesperada madridista, que acabó resolviendo Fede Valverde. Quiso siempre el Barça… Pero no pudo.

Entró con mayor empaque y control el Real Madrid al partido, cediendo el balón al Barça en un falso dominio azulgrana, con mayor posesión pero sin la sensación de peligro que sí mostraba el equipo de Ancelotti cuando se encontraba con la posibilidad de correr. Esperando paciente, a la contra salía el Madrid provocando cortocircuitos en la contención de de un Barça que se obligó a rebajar sus expectativas, tomando el choque un color blanco que explotó a los 25 minutos.

Un magnífico robo de balón de Benzema a Busquets, demasiado altivo en la conducción en el centro del campo, provocó la carrera de Vinicius, la lentitud de reacción de Dani Alves y el pase avanzado de Benzema, que el brasileño aprovechó para entrar en el área con ventaja sobre el desesperado Araújo, impotente como Ter Stegen al remate envenenado que abría el marcador.

Tocado pero no hundido, respondió el Barça, rebelándose contra la depresión, imprimiendo más verticalidad a su juego, más velocidad y evitando que la ventaja le diera pausa al rival. Así llegó relanzado hacia el descanso, con el premio final para Luuk de Jong, que después de tres remates con peligro se encontró con el gol en la jugada menos esperada, rematando, de rebote, un mal rechace de Militao a centro de Dembélé.

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EL EFECTO ESPUMOSO DE PEDRI

Más animado y convencido el Barça al término del primer tiempo, el segundo lo comenzó con mayor ímpetu incluso con la entrada de Abde y, por encima de todo, Pedri, cuya trascendencia, de entrada, fue fundamental para explicar el dominio, casi absoluto, azulgrana, en los primeros minutos.

Hasta cuatro remates en cinco minutos, con una posesión mucho más ofensiva y un plan de juego en el que el canario emergió como clave, disfrutó el equipo de Xavi en el primer cuarto de hora del segundo tiempo, cuando más sometió a un Madrid descentrado y que achicaba en defensa de la mejor manera que podía… Hasta que de manera incomprensible el Barça dio un paso atrás.

Pudo ser un paso atrás del Barça, un paso adelante del Madrid o una falta de aire en los jugadores azulgranas pero lo cierto es que de pronto recuperó su status el grupo de Ancelotti y ni la entrada de Ansu Fati por Luuk de Jong revolucionó el ataque de su equipo, que sufrió un cortocircuito del que acabaría por beneficiarse el Real.

Una mala cobertura de Alves a Mendy acabó con el balón en pies de Benzema, cuyo disparo eléctrico rechazó como pudo Ter Stegen, llegando el balón a Asensio cuyo centro raso rozó el portero para dejar el balón muerto otra vez a pies de Karim, cuyo remate a bocajarro desde la frontal del área pequeña ya fue imposible de salvar por la lenta defensa de un Barça que, entonces sí, recibió, minuto 72, el gol como un mazazo.

RESURRECCIÓN

Cómodo y solvente, el Madrid pareció dirigir el partido a un final tranquilo… Pero el Barça, digno en su capacidad de reacción, no se dio por vencido. Entraron Nico y Memphis, se la jugó Xavi avanzando al equipo con la salida de Alves y recuperó el terreno perdido su equipo. Hasta que encontró el premio.

Si falló Busquets en el 0-1, acertó Ansu Fati en encontrar el hueco al magnífico centro de Jordi Alba al que respondieron despistados en la marca Mendy y Militao, dejando solo al joven azulgrana para que pudiera rematar desmarcado, superar a Courtois y devolver la igualada en el momento más trascendente, y parecía definitivo, del choque.

Se llegó a la prórroga con el Madrid cerca del ahogo y la sensación de que el riesgo tomado por Xavi, que había dado resultado para evitar la derrota, podía suponerle un quebradero de cabeza en el tiempo extra… Aunque faltaba por ver el aire que le podía quedar ya a esas alturas a Vinicius y a un Madrid que echó mano de Lucas Vázquez para buscar profundidad pero había perdido ya a Modric.

El comienzo de la pròrroga fue poco menos que un monólogo del Barça. Dominador, firme, combinativo y solvente, el equipo de Xavi empequeñeció a un Madrid que tuvo que ajustarse en defensa y fiar su suerte a la contra, imaginando que esa apuesta del rival pudiera darle alguna opción porque de tanto atacar y marcharse arriba descuidaba su parte trasera.

Y así dio, como esperaba, el golpe. Tan animado y convencido estaba arriba el Barça que pagó su osadía en una contra, conducida por Rodrygo tras la pérdida de Dembélé y sentenciada por Fede Valverde, mediada la primera mitad de la prórroga y devolviendo la sonrisa a un equipo apocado y afortunado a partes iguales.

DESESPERO

A partir de ahí quiso pero ya no pudo el Barça. Lo intentó de todas las maneras sin perder nunca la personalidad. Combinando con urgencia, buscando los extremos, ajustándose con paciencia pero chocando contra una defensa veterana, que dejaba pocos espacios y decidida a no darle más concesiones.

Lo intentó hasta la desesperación el equipo de Xavi, con la frescura de Jutglà y juntándole con Dembélé, Ansu, Memphis, Pedri, Nico y quien hiciera falta, permitiendo hasta contras como la que disfrutó Rodrygo en su busca del empate milagroso… Que no llegó.

Y el Madrid se llevó el billete a la final.

Federico Valverde’s extra-time winner gave Real Madrid its 100th El Clasico victory over Barcelona and secured passage through to the Spanish Supercup final.

The 248th clash between these two great rivals was played in Riyadh — the first to be played outside of Spain — with the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) having agreed a multi-year deal for the semifinals and final of the Supercup to be played in Saudi Arabia.

The 2019-20 edition was the first to be hosted by Saudi Arabia and the RFEF has now agreed a contract with the Saudis for the mini tournament to be held in the Middle Eastern country until 2029, reportedly worth €30 million ($34 million) per season.

The deal, orchestrated by RFEF president Luis Rubiales, is further evidence of Saudi Arabia’s global sporting ambitions.

Yet as Saudi Arabia emerges as a powerful stakeholder in global sport, the country’s human rights record has come under focus, with activists accusing the kingdom of “sportswashing” — a phenomenon whereby corrupt or autocratic regimes invest in sports events to whitewash their international reputation.

The staging of the Supercup tournament in Saudi Arabia has also faced criticism in Spain.

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Before leaving for the tournament on Tuesday, Athletic Bilbao midfielder Raul Garcia — whose side faces Atletico Madrid in the other semifinal on Thursday — called the decision to host tournament p in Saudi Arabia “a complete nonsense.”

“Maybe I’m old school, but football has changed and the fans have been forgotten. I don’t think I need to say that, anyone can see,” Garcia said, as reported by Reuters.

Despite the protestations, the tournament is set to be held abroad for another eight years at least and on Wednesday Real Madrid became the first team to book its place in Sunday’s final.

The match against Barcelona, played in Riyadh’s King Fahd Stadium, was action-packed and exactly what Saudi organizers would have been hoping for in the tournament opener.

Vinícius Jr. gave Real Madrid the lead after 25 minutes, before Dutch forward Luuk de Jong equalized for Barcelona just before half time.

Karim Benzema scored with just under 20 minutes remaining and Real looked to be heading for victory, but teenager Ansu Fati’s goal seven minutes from time ensured the game went to extra time.

However, Real did once again get itself into the lead through Valverde eight minutes into extra time and Barcelona was unable to find an equalizer for a third time, meaning Los Blancos will now play either Atletico Madrid or Athletic Bilbao in Sunday’s final, hosted at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium.

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