Barcelona 2-3 Atletico Madrid
Well, that was a Spanish Super Cup thriller!
Instead it will be an all-Madrid final in Saudi Arabia on Sunday after a thrilling second half in which Atletico took the lead, were pegged back and then fought back late on to defeat the side which has won the competition a record 13 times.
Highlights of the game
The main Spanish Super Cup news and pre-match chatter had all been about the new look version of a competition which was created in 1982, traditionally a two-legged pre-season encounter between the reigning Liga and Copa del Rey champions – the curtain-raiser to the new season.
Change had been coming and last season’s Spanish Super Cup was played as a single game at a neutral venue –Tangier in Morocco — when Barcelona defeated Sevilla 2-1.
This was the start of something new however, and if this second half is indicative of what is to follow, this set-up may just become a firm fixture in the calendar.
Even Barca boss Ernesto Valverde admitted money is the key factor why the top four clubs from La Liga are in Saudi.
But both he and counterpart Diego Simeone fielded near full strength sides with Koke the only real surprise omission with the crowd in the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah focused mainly on the presence of Lionel Messi.
The Argentine maestro’s name was chanted throughout the warm-up, whilst he was cheered every single time he touched the ball in the first half of the match.
For Barca, Samuel Umtiti got the nod ahead of Clement Lenglet at centre-back and Arturo Vidal was selected in midfield over Ivan Rakitic.
On the other side, Stefan Savic returned from his long-term to start in defence after Jose Maria Gimenez was sidelined with a minor injury.
When the action began it didn’t disappoint, particularly the second half.
From an Angel Correa through ball, substitute Koke put Atletico within seconds of the start of the second half.
Yet Messi quickly levelled from a Luis Suarez pass, muscling past Savic and Koke en route, and soon put the ball in the net again only for that effort to be ruled out for handball following a VAR review.
Former Atletico striker Antoine Griezmann did put Barca in front in the 65th minute with a header past the impressive Jan Oblak, while Gerard Pique thought he had clinched the tie moments later only for VAR to intervene again, this time for a fractional offside against Vidal.
Laudably, Griezmann refused to celebrate against the team where he made his name and won a number of trophies.
In the ten matches he has played against Los Colchoneros, this was the first in which he scored against the Madrid club.
If it had not been for Oblak and VAR, the contest would likely have been over but Simeone’s men were given a lifeline 11 minutes from time when Vitolo was fouled by stand-in goalkeeper Neto.
Alvaro Morata equalised from the penalty spot and then a dramatic winner quickly followed.
A rare lapse from Gerard Pique conceded possession and Atletico countered with pace. Morata was involved again and, from his ball, Correa finished off with a shot that the unfortunate Neto partially blocked, only to see the ball spin into the goal.
Valverde turned to promising teenager Ansu Fati to try to help get back on level terms, but Atletico held firm
What a memorable night for them. But can another one follow in less than 72 hours time?
This is the first time under Simeone that Atletico have scored three times against Barca. The last occasion was in March 2009 in a match in which they were inspired by future Manchester City star Sergio Aguero in a 4-3 thriller.
The last three Atletico victories over Barca have all seen the Catalan club eliminated (twice in the Champions League and now in the Spanish Super Cup). They also are the only wins for Simeone against them in all competitions.
Griezmann has now scored against all 36 Spanish teams he has faced.
This was the 11th Spanish Super Cup game between the two clubs with five wins for Barca, three for Atletico and three draws.
It’s the final now against city rivals Real Madrid after they saw off Valencia in the other semi-final, a match in which Toni Kroos scored directly from a corner.
They then return to La Liga to face Eibar on January 18.
Barcelona now have a slight break before hosting Granada domestically on January 19.
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