Soccer

Spanish Super Cup score: Athletic Bilbao stun Real Madrid to reach Sunday’s final against Barcelona

Real Madrid suffered a stunning 2-1 defeat to Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup semifinals, spoiling a chance of a potential El Clasico matchup against Barcelona in the final on Sunday. Athletic captain Raul Garcia was the hero of the night for the Basque club, bagging a first-half brace as new manager Marcelino got the best of Zinedine Zidane’s men. Athletic are looking for their second trophy since 1984 and first since the 2015 Super Cup.     

Los Merengues entered this one coming off a scoreless stalemate against Osasuna in El Sadar. They have had a remarkable run in La Liga as of late, but the scoring drought against a minnow left the sting of a disappointing result for a Madrid side with slim margin of error as they sit second in the league standings behind their bitter rival Atletico Madrid.

Despite the less than impressive performance against Osasuna, Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane opted to make no changes and rolled the dice with the same starting XI. With an injury in training to Dani Carvajal, Lucas Vazquez was slotted into the right-back once again, with Marcos Asensio up top on the right wing slotting in for the injured Rodrygo. 

Zidane’s side would get off on the right foot against Athletic Bilbao, doing well to retain the ball and connect their passing. However, they lacked any connection into the final third, and as a result they couldn’t get any chances to finish. Despite good combinations from Mendy and Hazard, the team failed to find the opening goal. After holding the position and momentum in the opening 15 minutes, the game shifted in favor of Athletic Bilbao.

Garcia opened the scoring in the 18th minute after pouncing on a clinical pass threaded by Dani Garcia. He continued his run into the box to slotted the ball into the back of the net.

The breakthrough would shift everything into Athletic’s favor, who would stay active in the press against Real’s attempt to retain the ball. Athletic made the most of their opportunity when they had the ball, especially working the right side. The pay-off came again in the 38th minute when Vazquez was called for a foul in the box on Inigo Martinez. The yellow was issued and a penalty awarded. Garcia converted the spot kick to give the Basque side a two-goal halftime advantage.

Second half shift

Facing a two-goal deficit, Real made immediate adjustments by subbing Nacho for Raphael Varane to open the second half. Madrid once again got off to a promising start, with both sides exchanging shots in the early opening minutes of the second half. Iker Muniain got on the end of a dangerous header that ended up out wide, while Asensio stayed active on the wing and in front of goal, hitting a strong shot that rattled the crossbar in the 62nd minute.

Struggling to break through, Zidane continued to make adjustments, subbing Eden Hazard for Vinícius Junior and Luka Modric for Federico Valverde. Karim Benzema finally got Real Madrid on the scoresheet in the 73rd minute with a goal that was initially called offside, but overturned after a quick video review.

Los Merengues closed the match with a few desperate attempts, including from an active Benzema in the winding minutes and final VAR review for a handball penalty, but were ultimately unable to find the equalizer and eliminated. 

Notable Performances

Raul Garcia, Athletic Club: The 34-year-old attacker came up huge for his team, executing a cool and calm opening goal and nailing a penalty kick ahead of halftime that would ultimately be the winning goal. Rating: 8.5

Marco Asensio, Real Madrid The winger isn’t on the scoresheet but was the nearly the most active player offensively on the pitch for Madrid. Strong shots off the post and crossbar. If one of them had gone in, it would have been a different game and rating.  Rating: 7

Casemiro, Real Madrid: He’s rapidly become the most integral part of Madrid’s midfield. And that’s saying a lot when Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are occupying the same midfield. He was a huge part of Madrid’s possession and connection.  Rating: 7.5

Lucas Vazquez, Real Madrid: Zidane needs more from him. He struggled on the right side and it was noticed from the bench as he was subbed out to start the second half.  Rating: 5

Looking ahead

Real Madrid’s scoring struggles continue, as they have failed to score multiple goals in three of their last four matches. They are now on the way to prepare for Copa Del Rey next week, as they face off against Alcoyano on the road in Campo Municipal El Collao on Wednesday, Jan. 20. As for La Liga, they will be back the following week against Alaves on Jan. 23.


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