JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA (AFP) – Atletico Madrid sprung a surprise in the Spanish Super Cup by staging a thrilling comeback to beat Barcelona 3-2 early yesterday and set up a final against Real Madrid.
Barca looked on course for a showdown against Real tomorrow when they led Atletico 2-1 with nine minutes left but instead it will be a Madrid derby in Saudi Arabia to decide who lifts the trophy.
All five goals were scored during a wild second half in Jeddah that began with Koke putting Atletico in front, just 21 seconds after coming on as a substitute at the interval.
Goals from Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann turned the game on its head, only for Atletico to hit back with a late double, Alvaro Morata converting a penalty in the 81st minute before Angel Correa found a winner in the 86th.
In between, Barcelona also had two goals ruled out after video assistant referee (VAR) spotted tight offsides while Atletico were denied what looked a clear penalty at 2-2, after the ball clipped the hand of Gerard Pique.
“They had more legs than us and in the end it cost us,” said Griezmann.
“We made mistakes in everything, in passes – I think I missed a pass to Sam (Umtiti) before they scored – and the little things can lose you a match, a league, a Champions League.”
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said he preferred the old format but his strong team selection, that included Messi, Griezmann and Luis Suarez, suggested this was a tournament he was eager to win.
“The goal for 2-2 came at a time when we didn’t know how to get a hold of the game,” said Valverde, whose position will come under renewed scrutiny.
“There is always instability when you lose,” he added.
It remains to be seen how this defeat might affect the La Liga title race, with Real Madrid and Atletico now enjoying the opportunity not only to claim a trophy but score a psychological boost too.
“It is important for the club, we beat the best attacking team in the world,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “You saw our bite, our belief, our desire. It’s what this club is all about.”
Barca dominated the first half and Griezmann had the best chance, only for his lifted finish from the angle to be saved by the excellent Jan Oblak.
Atletico survived and frustration spilled over at the break as Jordi Alba poked a finger in the face of Joao Felix, who then went head-to-head with Messi. Suarez also had to be pulled away by Stefan Savic.
A spikey end to the first period was trumped by an explosive start to the second as Koke, on for less than a minute, gave Atletico the lead. Felix started the move and Correa slipped in Koke to stab into the bottom corner.
Simeone chose not to celebrate and if he was worried about the amount of time left, he was right, as Barcelona scored twice in 11 minutes.