Real Madrid needed extra time to beat Barcelona in El Clasico at the King Fahd Stadium to advance to the final of the Supercopa de Espana.
Federico Valverde’s goal in the first half of added time was enough to seal it, although Xavi’s side grew in confidence and started to add purpose to their possession but couldn’t quite find the goal that would peg Real Madrid back a third time.
Barcelona had hogged the ball from the first whistle, but struggled to make inroads as Real Madrid defended in numbers.
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It was the men in white that posed the biggest threat however, led by the pace and poise of Vinicius Jr. The Brazil striker set the tone from the front, pressing without the ball and always looking dangerous with it.
Several times he found Marcos Asensio with clever, shuffled passes and several times Asensio’s shooting let his side down.
The goal came when Vinicius decided to go alone. Sergio Busquets lost the ball to Karim Benzema who split the Barcelona back line to unleash his teammate. The Brazilian left Araujo flailing and the finish past Ter Stegen was laser-sharp.
The goal woke Barcelona from their stupor and suddenly their press, and possession, started to click. After good work harrying in midfield, Luuk De Jong shuttled the ball out to Ousmane Dembele whose cross caused havoc in the Madrid defence.
Eder Militao tried too much with the clearance and fired the ball against the onrushing De Jong and past Courtois for the leveller.
After a furious flourish of half-chances at the start of the second period, the game found it’s early rhythm – Barcelona had the ball, Real Madrid had the chances.
Benzema again showed his class on the break. The France striker had already slammed a curled effort against the post when Ter Stegen could only push the ball into his path. He gobbled up the goal his performance had earned.
But Barcelona clawed themselves back into it with a simple header from substitute Ansu Fati after he was left free at the near post. With extra time looming, Barcelona pushed for the winner but were unable to create anything clear cut.
Just minutes into extra time and Real Madrid again sprung and managed to make their mounting counter-attacking show. Vinicius was again central, selling the dummy that floored two defenders and allowed Valverde to slot home.
From there it was a matter of squeezing the game and the clock. They brought on the energy of Eduardo Camavinga who hustled in midfield and quelled any threat Barcelona could pose.
Camavinga had two chances to create a fourth but made the wrong choice on both occasions. Luckily for Madrid it didn’t matter.
It was a professional end to a counter-attacking masterclass and one that sees them face either Athletic Bilbao or Athletic Madrid in Sunday’s final.

TALKING POINT - XAVI STILL LOOKING FOR MIDFIELD MASTERY

As a player Xavi never looked flustered. His cool head and ability to stop the clock to play his pass epitomised Barcelona’s dominance. As a manager he is trying to find the same control.
But the clock has not stopped for the creaking Sergio Busquets who is becoming increasingly immobile at the heart of Barcelona’s play. He was overrun at times, played the ball straight to touch at others and was at fault as he had the ball nipped off his toe to gift Real Madrid the opening goal.
Xavi is trying to restore the control and game-shaping change of pace they could deploy under Pep Guardiola but Gavi, clearly a talent, is spikier than he is silky and Frenkie De Jong is till finding his feet at the club.
Without someone of Xavi’s class and talents as a player this midfield is always going to look like a 2012 tribute act. It was only once the pace and energy of Fati and Dembele started to show that Barcelona stamped anything on the game.

PLAYER OF THE MATCH - VINICIUS JR.

Vinicius Jr looked threatening from the first moments and clearly relished a match up against Dani Alves. The Brazil striker’s movement was sharp, forcing Alves and Araujo to double up to stop him running riot, gifting Benzema endless space and time.
It was this growing partnership that created the first goal. Benzema had time to pick his pass and Vinicius Jr’s finishing was as direct and purposeful as his running. The two looked unplayable at times and it was a surprise to see anyone else on the scoresheet for Madrid.
If he can keep this up, the likes of Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard will be unlikely to turn out on this Real Madrid left wing any time soon.

Real Madrid's Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior gestures after scoring during the Spanish Super Cup semi-final football match between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the King Fahad International stadium in the Saudi capital Riyadh on January 12, 2022.

Image credit: Getty Images

PLAYER RATINGS

Barcelona: Ter Stegen 6, Pique 5, Araujo 7, Alves 6, L. De Jong 7, Alba 6, Busquets 5, Gavi 7, Dembele 6, F. De Jong 5, Torres 6. Subs: Depay 6, Fati 7, Pedri 7, Jutgla 6, Ez Abde 6.
Real Madrid: Courtois 7, Carvajal 7, Militao 6, Nacho 6, Mendy 6, Kroos 6, Casemiro 6, Modric 7, Asensio 5, Benzema 7, Vinicius Jr. 9. Subs: Vazquez 7, Valverde 6, Rodrygo 7, Camavinga 5.

KEY MOMENTS

97’ GOAL! BARCELONA 2 - REAL MADRID 3 What a goal that was. The break has been on all evening and Madrid pour forward with a four on two. A clever dummy from Vinicius drops two defenders and the ball rolls to Valverde who slots home.
82’ GOAL! BARCELONA 2 - REAL MADRID 2 Fati leaps above all others from an Alba cross and nods the ball home. New to the fray, Fati restores parity. That was poor defending from a simple set piece.
72’ GOAL! BARCELONA 1 - REAL MADRID 2 Benzema has threatened all half and finally gets his reward. He steals space and bends a shot that is only half-palmed to Carvajal. The ball is drilled back in and Benzema slams home after a bit of a bundle.
41’ GOAL! BARCELONA 1 - REAL MADRID 1 De Jong grabs the goal. They are right back in it! The ball is flicked by Luuk De Jong to Dembele who fires the ball straight back in. Militao clears the ball against the onrushing Barca man and the deflection trickles past Courtois. It wasn't pretty, but it was a goal.
25’ GOAL! BARCELONA 0 - REAL MADRID 1 Vinicius Jr gallops clear again after being set free by Bezema's delicious ball. The Brazil man leaves Ter Stegen no chance with the finish after he left Araujo in his wake.
Benzema had nicked the ball off Busquets, who isn't having his best night at all.

KEY STATS

Tonight was Real Madrid’s one hundredth victory over Barcelona in all competitions. Of the 248 matches the two teams have played since the first El Classico in 1902, Barcelona have won 96.
Barcelona have scored the most headed goals, eight, of any team in Spain this season.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen has conceded 12 goals in five El Clasicos in the past two years.
Dani Alves played his 28 El Clasico tonight, after five years since his last one.
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