Courtois stars as Real Madrid beat Valencia to reach Super Cup final in Riyadh

Goalkeeper makes the difference after penalty shootout

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Thibaut Courtois was the star 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 after extra-time.

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.

Karim Benzema had sent Madrid ahead from the penalty spot but Gennaro Gattuso's side levelled at the start of the second half through Samuel Lino.

"It was a difficult game without much rhythm from either team, it was hard for us, but the important thing is that we're in the final and going for another trophy," Marco Asensio told Movistar.

"We had set up to go into the second half with intensity and the goal set us back. The ball didn't go in (for us) but we are happy and where we want to be."

The Spanish Super Cup was first held in Saudi Arabia in 2020 in the current format - and will remain in the country until at least 2029.

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 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 Lino scoring just seconds after the restart at the King Fahd International Stadium, escaping Lucas Vazquez to finish Lato's cross.

Madrid had further bad luck with injury, with Vazquez taken off hurt, 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.

Updated: January 11, 2023, 10:47 PM