Barcelona continue to shows signs of a team on the mend despite losing to Real Madrid in the Spanish Supercup.
Fede Valverde’s goal in the first period of extra-time gave Real Madrid a place in Sunday’s final of the Supercup with a thrilling 3-2 win over FC Barcelona.
Valverde finished off a counter-attack launched by Casemiro to break Barca’s hearts after they had twice come from behind.
Although the game ended in disappointment for Xavi Hernandez’s men, they can take heart from an improved display and the impressive returns of Pedri and Ansu Fati after long injury layoffs.
While Barcelona handed a first start to recent signing Ferran Torres, Real Madrid lost defender David Alaba to a muscle problem prior to kick-off and he was replaced by Nacho Fernandez.
Barca kicked off and it was quickly obvious that Real Madrid were content to try and draw Barca forward and look to hit them on the break using the pace of Vinicius Jr and Marco Asensio on the wings, and Karim Benzema’s guile through the middle.
Benzema and Asensio both fired wide after early breaks, while Vinicius hit a shot at Marc-Andre ter Stegen, before Madrid’s play was rewarded in the 25th minute when Benzema picked Sergio Busquets’ pocket and the ball fell to Modric, who slipped it through to Benzema, whose quick pass to Vinicius allowed the Brazilian to run through and fire past ter Stegen.
Barca tried to react with Ousmane Dembele getting more into the game on the Barca left. He crossed twice for Luuk de Jong to head both times at Thibaut Courtois, but it was third time lucky after de Jong’s flick again set up Dembele and his low ball ended up in the Madrid goal after Militao’s clearance cannoned into de Jong, who may or may not have known much about it.
With Pedri on as a halftime substitute, Barca took a step forward in the second half and were in control of the game. However, Karim Benzema was to prove vital with Madrid’s second goal, which came moments after he had hit the post from virtually nothing.
Barca could have let their heads drop, but they got back into the game, with Ansu Fati producing a smart header seven minutes from time after Jordi Alba’s cross.
The game could have gone either way in extra-time, but once again Real Madrid’s effectiveness on the break would be decisive.