Riyadh, Jan 16 (EFE).- Real Madrid romped to its 12th win in the Spanish Super Cup in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, defeating defending champions Athletic Club 2-0 with Luka Modric and Karim Benzema doing the scoring honors at King Fahd International Stadium, thus bringing the team within one victory of Barcelona, which holds the record of 13 Super Cup wins.
With just 30,000 spectators – 50 percent capacity due to coronavirus gathering restrictions – in the stands, Carlo Ancelotti’s men dominated the match throughout, keeping possession of the ball for most of the contest although it must be said that Athletic defenders Yeray Alvarez and Inigo Martinez did a relatively good job of protecting their goal, along with goaltender Unai Simon.
Once again, though Real Madrid showed that they are a very solid team and did not need to camp out before Simon’s net to get their tallies but rather ranged all over the pitch.
Overall, however, Marcelino Toral’s team were far below their optimum, losing their third final out of the last four they’ve played over the past year.
Vinicius Jr. sliced through Athletic’s defenses just six minutes into play, but Simon handled the ball, and shortly thereafter, in the 17th minute, Benzema got a chance only to fire his shot wide.
But the capital squad went ahead in the 38th minute when Rodrygo, who was playing for Marco Asensio, out with muscle problems, dribbled in, clearing enough room for Modric to fire an unstoppable shot from about 18 yards out for the 1-0.
At the break, Toral brought on 19-year-old Nico Williams to replace Alex Berenguer trying to up the Basque team’s energy, but Real Madrid managed to secure a second tally in the 52nd minute when Benzema had a shot-on-goal hit by Yeray with his arm in the box. On VAR review a penalty was called – the Athletic coach also got a yellow card for a protesting remark he made on the sidelines – and when Benzema took the penalty shot he sank it handily past Simon for the 2-0.
Athletic didn’t give up, however, and Raul Garcia might have changed the dynamic of the match in the 64th minute if he had managed to find the twine with his header.
And in the 86th minute another header by Garcia hit Eder Militao’s left hand and, upon another VAR review, a penalty was called and Militao was booted on a red card, but Garcia’s penalty kick was knocked away by Real Madrid goaltender Thibaut Courtois and that was all she wrote.
Athletic Club and Real Madrid had not faced one another since 1958 in a final, but the losers – presently in the No. 9 spot in La Liga – will go up against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.
Now leading the La Liga table, meanwhile, Real Madrid will head to Elche on Jan. 23 also in Copa del Rey action.
Athletic Club: Unai Simon; De Marcos, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Balenziaga; Berenguer (Nico Williams, min. 46), Zarraga (Vesga, min. 58), Dani Garcia, Muniain (Serrano, min. 80); Sancet (Raul Garcia, min. 58) and Iñaki Williams.
Real Madrid: Courtois; Lucas Vazquez (Nacho, min. 91), Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Rodrygo (Valverde, min. 63), Vinicius (Marcelo, min. 86) and Benzema.