The Supercopa de Espana is undoubtedly the least prestigious of the titles Spanish football’s heavyweights compete for, but in this strangest of seasons it’s taken on a new significance.
Ronald Koeman could use it to win his first title as Barcelona coach, and will at least contest his first final in the competition after his team edged past Real Sociedad in Cordoba this evening in the first semi-final.
The Blaugrana took the lead in the first half before conceding an equaliser in the second, but managed to win their first penalty shoot-out since 1998 after extra-time kept them held at 1-1.
What winning the first title available to them could do is set Barcelona, who’ve endured such a difficult and inconsistent opening to the season, on the track to success in the second half of the campaign, with La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey all still to play for.
Barcelona took the lead in the 39th minute, and it was one of the young players who’s really stepped up in recent weeks, Frenkie de Jong, who pulled the trigger. Antoine Griezmann squared for the Dutch midfielder, whose header arced past La Real’s goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
De Jong turned from hero to villain, however, shortly after the second half got underway. He handled the ball in the box to concede a penalty that La Real’s captain and talisman Mikel Oyarzabal was never going to miss.
Neither team could find a winner as the 90 minutes reached its end and then throughout extra-time, although Marc-Andre ter Stegen was on hand to pull of a number of truly outstanding saves to keep Barcelona in the game.
The German goalkeeper was the hero in the penalty shoot-out, too, as the Blaugrana won 3-2. Mikel Merino and Adnan Januzaj scored for La Real, but Jon Bautista, Oyarzabal and Willian Jose all failed to score.
De Jong and Griezmann missed for Barcelona but Ousmane Dembele, Miralem Pjanic and Riqui Puig all converted to send Barcelona through to Sunday’s final against either Real Madrid or Athletic Club Bilbao, who play tomorrow night.