Real Madrid defeated Atlético 5-3 in the Spanish Super Cup semi-final match in Saudi Arabia. They will now advance to the final round of the tournament.

Estimated read time 7 min read

If Episodes II and III of the Madrid Trilogy are going to end on a high note, they will need to be exceptionally exceptional. Atlético and Real, not satisfied with facing each other three times in three competitions over the course of three weeks, decided to extend their match by an additional half hour, resulting in a thrilling tie with three goals scored by each team. This marks the sixth consecutive knockout derby match between the two teams. The intense game finally came to an end when Jan Oblak, Atlético’s goalkeeper, desperately attempted to save his team from a 4-3 deficit, but instead found himself chasing after Brahim Díaz who scored the winning goal in the 121st minute, leading his teammates to rush onto the field in celebration and secure their spot in the final of the Spanish Super Cup.

It was an exciting ending to a chaotic event: a match filled with entertainment and eight goals, two of which were exceptional and two of which were rather ridiculous. Most were not scored by the expected players. Antoine Griezmann managed to surpass Luis Aragonés as Atlético’s top scorer, but few would have foreseen goals from Mario Hermoso, Toni Rüdiger, Ferland Mendy, and Dani Carvajal, all defenders. And the unexpected own goals from Kepa Arrizabalaga and Stefan Savic, the latter ultimately giving Real a lead in extra time that secured their victory. Just barely.

The initial encounter between these two teams, who will face each other in the Copa del Rey next week and in the league at the beginning of February, resulted in a total of 30 shots and a score change from 1-0 in favor of Atlético to 2-1 for Real, and then from 3-2 for Atlético to 5-3 for Real. The outcome was uncertain until the very end, when substitute Díaz was seen without his jersey and everyone was attempting to determine what had occurred. The explanation included various factors, but not solid defending.

At the conclusion, everyone was fatigued, but throughout much of the game, the skill displayed was exceptional. This could be attributed to the atmosphere of both sides desiring to have a more enjoyable experience, which may not be the case in the next two games back in Spain.

From the very beginning, it was displayed and especially evident in the play that led to the first goal: created deep in one half and completed in the other, it passed from Koke to the exceptional Rodrigo de Paul to Griezmann and finally to Samuel Lino, whose shot was deflected wide by Kepa. From Griezmann’s corner kick, Hermoso found himself unmarked and headed Atlético into the lead. When Real attempted to pressure Atlético soon after, they repeated their previous move, this time starting from their own left corner and ending at Real’s left-hand post, where Marcos Llorente’s pass found Álvaro Morata, whose shot hit the side-netting.

Real Madrid was having difficulty gaining control in the beginning stages, but Atlético was well aware of their determination to not give up and quickly took the lead. Jude Bellingham’s shot was deflected wide and Rüdiger was able to head in a goal from the corner, which was almost identical to a moment from the European Cup final in Lisbon ten years ago, but still fresh in everyone’s minds. The person who took the corner was even the same, Luka Modric.

Rüdiger scored in his second consecutive game and it was the third consecutive goal for Real that was scored from a header at a corner. However, this streak did not continue for long. While this may sound like a typical occurrence, it was anything but: a cleverly executed play ended with Mendy using his ankle to delicately flick the ball into the net, giving his team the lead. The crowd in Riyadh, where Real was playing as the home team despite being 5,000km away, chanted “That’s how Madrid wins.” This type of play is not usually expected from a French full-back.

Toni Kroos and Antoine Griezmann clasp hands at full time

The goal was beautiful and reflected the unfolding events of the match. While there wasn’t much tension, the players made up for it with their impressive technique. What happened next was even more impressive. Griezmann made an extraordinary backheeled turn, leaving Aurélien Tchouaméni, Rüdiger, and especially Modric confused and creating a space that didn’t exist just a second before. He stepped into this space and fired a right-footed shot from the edge of the area, scoring past Kepa. After retrieving the ball from the net, he gave it to Diego Simeone for safekeeping. This was the ball that marked his 164th goal for Atlético, surpassing any other player’s record, and also tied the semi-final game.

A few moments later, Rodrygo made a swift move, leaving José María Giménez on the ground. Oblak, falling in the opposite direction, managed to save the ball with his legs and prevent it from crossing the line. This was the 14th shot of an exciting first half, with nine of them being on target. The second half began with Lino’s shot just barely missing the post. Carvajal had a chance to score at the other end, but Oblak blocked his close-range volley after being released by a quick Vinícius free-kick.

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At that point, the level had increased: Toni Kroos, who had previously stated that Saudi Arabia’s track record on human rights was a factor in his decision to not relocate to the country, received disapproving reactions each time he was in possession of the ball.

The tension heightened, despite the game’s slower pace. In the final 12 minutes, Atlético regained the lead with a goal that was both strange and comical. Kepa attempted to punch a cross, but instead ended up deflecting it onto Rüdiger’s leg and into the net. The goalkeeper argued that he was fouled, but his response seemed desperate and unconvincing. He couldn’t even hold onto that excuse.

However, he was eventually rescued. With only six minutes remaining, Vinícius quickly advanced up the left side and charged into the penalty area. Oblak managed to save his initial shot, but Savic blocked Bellingham’s follow-up and Hermoso cleared Bellingham’s second attempt off the goal line. Nevertheless, Carvajal charged in and powerfully struck the ball into the net to equalize the score at 3-3. In the 91st minute, Brahim nearly scored the winning goal as he skillfully dribbled past Hermoso with a stepover, but his shot missed the target, resulting in another derby heading into extra time. In a similar turn of events, a dummy from Ángel Correa proved to be the decisive moment for Atlético.

Atlético appeared fatigued at this point and could only make attempts, which ultimately were unsuccessful, to hold on. The sequence of events was both harsh and a bit foolish, as Savic’s block unintentionally went over his own goalie and into the goal with only four minutes remaining and a penalty shootout on the horizon. Griezmann’s shot then narrowly missed the post. In the final minute, with Atlético pushing forward, so did Oblak. However, when he had to backtrack and defend, he witnessed Brahim Díaz breaking away and along with it, their final opportunity.


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