Thibaut Courtois was the hero for Real Madrid as they beat Valencia 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Riyadh on Wednesday to reach the Spanish Super Cup final.

The reigning Super Cup champions were below their best again amid a difficult start to 2023, but Courtois excelled, making crucial saves and then decisively denying Jose Gaya in the shootout.

Madrid will go on to play either Barcelona or Real Betis, who play Thursday, in Sunday’s final.

La Liga champions Madrid, facing the Spanish Cup runners-up, had chances to win the game within 90 minutes but needed Courtois to make a stunning reflex save from Fran Perez in extra-time.

The Spanish Super Cup was first held in Saudi Arabia in 2020 in the current “final four” format — and will remain in the country until at least 2029, despite criticism over the hosts’ human rights record.

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, who was without recently injured duo Aurelien Tchouameni and David Alaba, started with Nacho at left-back and brought Fede Valverde into the midfield trio.

Los Blancos started strongly, with Benzema producing a glorious dribble, but Cenk Ozkacar did well to cut him off and block the French striker’s shot.

Courtois kept out Edinson Cavani’s header and then did enough to put off Toni Lato, who burst in from the right and appealed in vain for a penalty when he slipped.

Madrid took the lead shortly before half-time, when Eder Militao played a fine ball over the top to send Benzema through.

The forward was clumsily felled in the area by Eray Comert and tucked away the resulting penalty, sending Valencia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili the wrong way.

Courtois shines

Courtois made a stunning save to deny Cavani before the break, although the veteran Uruguayan forward was offside.

It was a warning for what was to come, with Samuel Lino scoring just seconds after the restart, escaping Lucas Vazquez to finish Lato’s cross.

Madrid had further bad luck with injury, with Vazquez appearing to sustain a knee problem, while Militao was withdrawn after being hit in the head with a shot.

Vinicius Junior, who had been quiet, should have won the game for Madrid in stoppage time but Mamardashvili denied him with his legs from close range.

The Valencia goalkeeper denied the Brazilian again and made a fine save to keep out a vicious Toni Kroos drive in extra-time as Madrid turned the screw.

It was his counterpart Courtois’s turn to make a miraculous save as the clocked ticked down, showing sensational reflexes to deflect Perez’s near-post effort to safety.

Cavani and Benzema both converted from the spot in the shoot-out but Comert completed a poor individual night by firing over the bar and Luka Modric put Madrid ahead.

Los Blancos converted all four of their spot-kicks and did not need a fifth when Courtois read Gaya’s intentions and saved his effort down the middle.

Source: AFP

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