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Barça are through to the Spanish Super Cup Final in Riyadh on Sunday, where Real Madrid stand between them and the first ever title under this new four-team format.
But getting there was by no means easy. The Catalans twice took the lead against Real Betis, but the Copa del Rey champions, fourth in La Liga, twice managed to find a response and the game ended up being decided in a penalty shootout.
Barça progress from a game that will also be remembered as the one in which Sergio Busquets became only the third player to make 700 appearances for the club, and in which Ansu Fati scored a goal that we’re going to be admiring for years and years.
Xavi had said the day before that this game would be all about who could keep control of the ball. And he will have been delighted with the way Barça totally commandeered the possession for the first 25 minutes, which ended with Pedri toe-poking Raphinha’s assist past Claudio Bravo only to be denied by the most fractional of offside calls.
The non-goal was a wake-up call for Betis, who were starting to create the first danger of their own when Barça hit again at the other end – and this time the goal stood.
Ousmane Dembélé, again brilliant today, picked out Robert Lewandowki and although the Pole’s initial shot was blocked, the rebound presented him with a second chance, and Barça would be 1-0 up at half-time.
And although Ter Stegen had been called upon to make two particularly impressive saves, it was hard to argue that the team in front was the team that deserved to be.
Xavi had also recently been lamenting how his team struggle to kill off games, and here was further example. Instead of extending their lead, Barça gradually ceded more and more of the initiative to an increasingly more confident-looking Betis, who eventually pulled back level through Nabil Fekir.
Moments after losing the lead, Barça were celebrating regaining it, but despite some lovely work from Ferran Torres in the build-up and a deft finish from Lewandowski, another goal was cancelled out for offside and we were heading for extra time.
What a goal!
Ansu Fati had missed the most extraordinary of sitters right at the end of regulation time, and although it wouldn’t have counted anyway because of yet another offside, he more than made up for the blunder in added time.
Wow. Wow. Wow. A clearance was flying the youngster’s way and up went his foot to meet it with a simply extraordinary volley. It’s many years from now, but when Ansu ends his career and looks back at his greatest goals, it’s hard to imagine that this won’t be one of them. Spectacular!
Extra time and penalties
A goal worthy of winning any trophy, but Betis still hadn’t had the final say. And much as it hurts, it’s hard not to want to applaud Loren’s equaliser too. Who knows where he pulled that back-heel trick from, but the Super Cup semi-final was level again.
Down to ten men after Guardado was red carded, Betis managed to hold out. For the second night in a row, the King Fahd Stadium was going to see a game decided by a penalty shootout.
Lewandowski, Kessie, Ansu Fati and Pedri all converted their penalties, while Ter Stegen saved two of Betis’ attempts. Barça's fifth taker wasn’t even needed. We're through to the final… Bring on Real Madrid on Sunday!
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