Spanish Super Cup

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Real Madrid defeats Atlético in penalties, wins Spanish Super Cup

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In the Spanish Super Cup final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid played to a 0-0 draw through 120 minutes with Los Blancos winning their 11th Super Cup after coming out on top in penalties 4-1.

Captain Sergio Ramos converted the decisive penalty, earning manager Zinedine Zidane his ninth final win.

Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric and Rodrygo scored in the shootout, while Saúl Ñíguez and Thomas Partey failed to for Diego Simeone’s side.

Los Colchoneros had a clear scoring chance in the 113th minute. As Alavaro Morata paced forward with only Thibaut Courtois to beat, Real Madrid’s player of the match, Federico Valverde, executed a game-saving tackle, sending Morata to the floor. Valverde saw a red card immediately after the tactical tackle.

Atlético ‘keeper Jan Oblak and Courtois played key factors on Sunday, recording six and five saves, respectively. The routine saves throughout 120 minutes forced extra time for the fifth consecutive final between the city rivals since 2013.

The Madrid Derby wraps up the debut of the new Spanish Super Cup format. Originally a final played between the league and Cup champions, the competition was expanded to four teams by the federation.

Two years remain of a reported three-year, $133-million deal that has the competition based in Saudi Arabia.

Madrid plays Atlético in Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia

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JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — The Spanish capital’s two soccer powerhouses will face off on Sunday thousands of kilometers from Madrid in the final of the new-look Spanish Super Cup.

Real Madrid plays Atletico Madrid in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to decide the winner of the first edition of a revamped tournament.

The Spanish federation expanded the competition to four teams – instead of two – and moved it from the start of the season to its midpoint. The federation was not deterred by human rights activists and European football’s governing body who criticized it for taking the mini-competition to Saudi Arabia on a three-year deal reportedly worth 120 million euros ($134 million).

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin had recommended for European soccer teams not to play in countries “where the basic rights of women are not respected.”

Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales has tried to deflect the criticism by highlighting that opening the games to women spectators was part of the deal to play in the country.

Coach Ernesto Valverde, whose Barcelona team was beaten by Atletico 3-2 in Thursday’s semifinal, has publicly said that the games are about making more money.

Amnesty International organized a small peaceful protest in front of the Saudi Arabia embassy in Madrid on Wednesday to call for the release of women activists who have been fighting for their rights in Saudi Arabia.

On the field, and despite the limited interest the games have drawn back in Spain, the semifinals offered some exciting contests. Madrid showed off the quality of its midfielders to overcome injuries to its forwards in a 3-1 win over Valencia on Wednesday, while Atletico stunned Barcelona with two late goals.

Traditionally the Super Cup was the league vs. cup winner. Barcelona won last season’s Liga, while Valencia claimed the Copa del Rey.

Madrid will still be without the injured Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard. Against Valencia, manager Zinedine Zidane successfully experimented with a line-up loaded with five midfielders, and three of them- Toni Kroos, Francisco “Isco” Alarcon and Luka Modric – found the net.

Zidane, however, was tight-lipped over whether he would repeat the formula against Atletico at the King Abdullah stadium.

“I am not going to tell you how we are going to play,” Zidane said Friday. “The important thing is that we play on the attack, not with a certain scheme. The important thing is to have a balanced side.”

This will be the third time the crosstown rivals have met since the end of last season. Atletico embarrassed Madrid 7-3 in a preseason game in the United States in July. They then drew 0-0 at Atletico’s stadium in a Spanish league match in September.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone said that his two most in-form players, goalkeeper Jan Oblak and forward Angel Correa, have recovered from knocks they received against Barcelona. Oblak made several saves to keep his team alive against Lionel Messi’s Barcelona until Alvaro Morata and Correa struck to flip the score.

“Madrid is a team that we know very well,” Simeone said. “They transmit the sensation that they have to win, and then they do so. We are both teams that are extremely motivated to win this cup and we will both use all our weapons to win this game.”

Valverde questioned after another late collapse by Barcelona

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Barcelona had once again played great, led through goals by Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, yet still managed to let it slip away.

Barcelona squandered one of its best performances of the season by conceding two late goals to Atletico Madrid, falling 3-2 in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Messi had equalized after Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion scored for Atletico, and Griezmann put Barcelona deservedly ahead 2-1. But the goalkeeping of Jan Oblak, Atletico’s star this season, kept Barcelona out the rest of the way while Alvaro Morata leveled with a penalty kick in the 82nd minute and Angel Correa completed the dramatic turnaround in the 86th.

For Barcelona, the chance to add a minor trophy from a mini-tournament played thousands of miles away is not the main worry. The concern is Barcelona’s odd knack of losing control of games that look like a sure victory. Whether it’s a question of overconfidence, a lack of fitness or just momentary lapses that cost the team dearly, the pressure is on coach Ernesto Valverde.

Messi and other team leaders defended Valverde, whose very good overall record at Barcelona has been blemished by shocking defeats.

“It’s normal that when you lose and don’t reach your objectives, and when our fans see that the team is not playing like they would like, that people talk and say things,” Messi said. “We have to be more united than ever, remain a strong group and get through this.

“This year will we try to play like we did today (before the late goals) and not commit childish errors like those we committed today.”

Barcelona’s loss at the King Abdullah Sports City on Thursday came five days after it conceded an 88th-minute equalizer at Espanyol in the Spanish league. The late goal by Wu Lei also came on a desperate counterattack similar to both of Atletico’s late attacks that led to goals, when Barcelona’s backline was out of sync and let a pass through to a player with only goalkeeper Neto to beat. Wu’s goal ruined a superb match by Luis Suarez, who had scored with a fine touch and made a difficult pass for an assist.

Suarez also backed Valverde on Thursday by taking the blame for the stumble against Atletico.

“This loss shows we have room to improve,” the Uruguay striker said. “It shows us that there are mistakes that we can’t make because we were in charge of the game and we let them mount counterattacks. But the coach is not at fault; they were mistakes that we made.”

Barcelona has drawn three of its last four league matches, but still lead the competition on goal difference ahead of Real Madrid. The team was leading before finishing 2-2 at Real Sociedad last month; lost 3-1 at Levante after Messi had put them ahead in November; and gave up a goal in the 81st in a 2-2 draw at Osasuna in August.

Those setbacks would not be as worrisome for Barcelona if the team had not completely collapsed in the Champions League in recent seasons, most recently a humiliating 4-0 loss at Liverpool after winning the first leg of the semifinals 3-0. Valverde’s job was then in even more jeopardy at the end of last season after Barcelona lost the Copa del Rey final to Valencia, casting a shadow of doubt over the Spanish league champions. Club president Josep Bartomeu, however, has stuck by the former player who is known for his intelligence and unflappable attitude.

Valverde is in his third season at Barcelona. He has won back-to-back Spanish league titles and one Copa del Rey final. A European Cup has eluded him.

Valverde said he was used to the criticism as part of a job that was never secure.

“We coaches always work with the idea of giving it our all to each match,” Valverde said. “We know how soccer is and that there is a permanent instability in teams when you are not getting good results or when you lose. Now that we have lost I suppose people will talk about it, but I remain focused on my job.”

Valverde’s next job is to prepare for the visit of Granada on Jan. 19.

In the meantime, Atletico will face crosstown rival Real Madrid in the Super Cup final on Sunday.

Atletico Madrid comes back to stun Barcelona, set up derby final

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We’ve got a Madrid Derby in Saudi Arabia.

Atletico Madrid outlasted Barcelona in a thrilling Spanish Super Cup semifinal on Thursday, the Blaugranas defense a second half shambles.

All five goals came in the second half of a 3-2 decision, Atleti earning a spot opposite Real Madrid in Sunday afternoon’s final.

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Real routed Valencia in the other semifinal.

Atleti is looking for its first Supercup since 2014, while Real won its 10th in 2017. Only Barcelona (13) has won more.

Koke had given Atleti the shot at a Madrid Derby final, but Barca answered well.

Former Atleti man Antoine Griezmann headed in a rebound after Lionel Messi supplied the equalizer with a quick-witted shot in traffic.

Gerard Pique tapped in a would-be third goal after Messi teamed up with Arturo Vidal for a clever free kick routine, but VAR overturned the call.

Atleti then won a penalty on a reckless challenge from Barca goalkeeper Neto, and Morata converted the chance. The Madrid side looked to have a second penalty in three minutes when Morata’s cross appeared to strike the hand of Pique, but VAR did not see a conclusive error.

Barca’s defense remained wide open, however, and Angel Correa raced past the back line and powered a shot through Neto’s hands to make it 3-2 in the 86th.

Messi now has 16 goals and nine assists in 20 matches this season. He has 13 goals and five assists in 18 Super Cup matches.

Modric, Kroos scores classy goals in Real Madrid rout (video)

Modric and Kroos score amazing goals for Real Madrid
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Psst. You.

Yeah, you.

Do you like technique?

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Real Madrid displayed it in bunches on Wednesday, getting beautiful goals from set piece star Toni Kroos and possible future DC United midfielder Luka Modric.

Modric’s was the real prize. The one-time Ballon d’Or winner scored a beauty for Real Madrid on Wednesday to help produce a 3-1 win over Valencia in the Spanish Super Cup semifinal in Saudi Arabia.

Real led 2-0 when Modric took a pass from Luka Jovic and dribbled toward the six. The Valencia backs left a sliver between them with Modric on his right foot, but the angle didn’t bother him much.

So smooth.

Toni Kroos and Isco also scored, the latter deposited a partially blocked Modric shot.

Kroos’ marker was an Olimpico that made Valencia backstop Jaume Domenech look downright silly.

Daniel Parejo scored in stoppage time to ruin Thibaut Courtois‘ clean sheet.

Real will play the winner of Thursday’s semi between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid for Sunday’s final.