Jeddah, Jan 10 (IANS) Atletico Madrid scored twice in the final 10 minutes of regulation to defeat Barcelona 3-2 in their Spanish Super Cup semi-final.
The 60,000 people in the stands at King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah on Thursday evening were treated to an exciting clash that saw the lead change hands three times, Lionel Messi in top form and a great performance by Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak, reports Efe news.
The spectators also witnessed Atletico beat Barcelona for only the third time in 27 matches since Diego Simeone became Colchoneros coach in 2011.
Most expected the final of this inaugural edition of the Spanish Super Cup under an expanded four-team format to feature Barcelona and arch-rivals Real Madrid.
But instead of another installment of the Clasico, next Sunday’s contest will be a Madrid derby pitting the Blancos — winners over Valencia in the other semifinal — against the Colchoneros.
Messi, the star attraction of the tournament, responded to the expectations of the crowd with a display of his trademark virtuosity. The Argentine superstar led every attack in a first half thoroughly dominated by Barcelona.
Oblak had to be sharp to deny Messi in the 20th minute before handling a strike from Arturo Vidal.
The best opportunity for the Blaugrana came in the 39th minute, when a Luis Suarez pass found Antoine Griezmann unmarked in front of the Atleti goal, but the Slovenian keeper prevailed over his former teammate in the 1v1 and the score was still 0-0 at the break.
The deadlock was shattered inside the first minute of the second half by Atletico captain Koke, who came on for Hector Herrera.
Sidelined for weeks with a hamstring injury, the midfielder returned with a bang, scoring in the 46th minute with an assist from Angel Correa.
Messi brought Barcelona level five minutes later, pushing through Koke and defender Stefan Savic to beat Oblak, who thwarted Griezmann on the next sequence.
Barcelona looked to have taken the lead at the hour mark when Messi put the ball in the net, but the goal was disallowed after the VAR review spotted a hand ball.
The Catalan club finally went ahead in the 64th minute. Oblak repelled a powerful header from Suarez only for Griezmann to score on the rebound.
A goal by Gerard Pique off a Messi free kick appeared to seal the win for Barca until VAR intervened again and the goal was taken down because Vidal was offside.
Atleti’s comeback began in the 81st minute as Alvaro Morata converted from the spot to make it 2-2 after being fouled by Barcelona keeper Neto.
The referee turned a deaf ear to Atletico’s pleas for another penalty after VAR detected a hand ball by Pique before Correa got the winner for the Colchoneros from open play in the 86th minute.