Madrid beats Barcelona for 100th time, reaches Cup final

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Barcelona put on a good fight as an underdog, but in the end it was Real Madrid celebrating again after a thrilling “clásico” between the Spanish powerhouses in Saudi Arabia. Federico Valverde scored in extra time to give Real Madrid a 3-2 win over Barcelona for its 100th victory over its storied rival and a spot in the final of the Spanish Super Cup.

Barcelona twice equalized in regular time but couldn’t recover after Valverde scored from close range on a breakaway eight minutes into extra time to give Madrid its fifth straight win over the Catalan club in all competitions.

Defending Super Cup champion Athletic Bilbao will face Spanish league champion Atlético Madrid in the other semifinal Thursday.

“We competed well,” Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué said. “It’s not the result we wanted but we are a step closer to winning. I’m very proud of our team. We have to leave with our heads up after the way we played against a Real Madrid team that is having a very good season.”

The Spanish Super Cup is being played in Saudi Arabia again after the coronavirus pandemic trans-ferred last year’s edition back to Spain. The compe-tition was moved to Saudi Arabia — and expanded from two to four teams in a “Final Four” format — as part of a deal reportedly worth 30 million euros ($34 million) a year until 2029.

The changes drew criticism from human rights activists and complaints from fans who preferred the competition stayed in Spain. Among those com-plaining was Athletic midfielder Raúl García, who said this week it made “no sense” to play the games away from Spain.

It was Madrid’s 100th win over Barcelona in 248 competitive matches against the rival. Barce-lona has 96 wins, though none since 2019.

“I have to admit that Barcelona played well,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “It was an even match. We were efficient on the counterattacks.”

It was a mostly even match but Madrid looked the more dangerous team throughout thanks to its counterattacks led Vinícius Júnior and Benzema.—AP

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