Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) – Thibaut Courtois proved the hero on Sunday as Real Madrid beat city rivals Atletico Madrid in a penalty shoot-out in Saudi Arabia to win their 11th Spanish Super Cup.
Courtois and Jan Oblak were both imperious during a goalless final in Jeddah but the Belgian came up trumps, saving Thomas Partey’s penalty after Saul Niguez had already hit the post.
Sergio Ramos tucked away the winning spot-kick to ensure Real Madrid clinched their first trophy of the season, with La Liga and the Champions League next in their sights.
“I went through their takers on the bench,” said Courtois. “Saul’s surprised me but Thomas’ I read, and he’s got a very hard shot.”
Atletico might have won it in extra-time when Alvaro Morata went through one-on-one but Real’s Federico Valverde took a red card in exchange for cynically fouling the striker from behind.
“It was something you shouldn’t do and I apologised to Alvaro but it was the only option I had left,” said Valverde.
“It was the most important moment of the match,” added Atletico coach Diego Simeone.
“If he had gone through it was a goal but I told him that anyone would have done the same in his position.”
Victory maintains Zinedine Zidane’s spotless record as a coach in finals.
He has now led Madrid to success three times in the Champions League, and two each in the Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup and now Spanish Super Cup.
“I have won many things as a player and now as a coach,” said Zidane. “But I congratulate the players. You can achieve anything if you work hard enough.”
– Venue controversy –
The focus before the tournament was more on the decision of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to move this year’s Super Cup — a four-team competition rather than a straight final — away from Spain and to Saudi Arabia, despite the country’s long-criticised treatment of women and record on human rights.
Before the final, RFEF president Luis Rubiales said he was “very happy” with how the format had panned out. “We have to improve things because it is a country that has just started organising these sorts of events,” he added.
For all the controversy off the pitch, on the pitch, the tournament has delivered.
Real Madrid played brilliantly to beat Valencia on Wednesday while a pulsating 3-2 win for Atletico on Thursday has put Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde on the brink of the sack.