'Pure Real Madrid DNA': Ancelotti hails fightback victory to reach Spanish Super Cup final

Antoine Griezmann becomes Atletico's all-time leading goalscorer but Real reach final after a 5-3 extra-time win in Riyadh

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Carlo Ancelotti said it is in Real Madrid's DNA to never give up after their remarkable victory over rivals Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals on Wednesday.

Real twice came from a goal down and required extra time at Al Awwal Park in Riyadh to beat Atletico 5-3 and book their place in the final, where they will meet either Barcelona or Osasuna, who contest the other semi-final on Thursday.

Mario Hermoso and Antonio Rudiger exchanged early headed goals before Ferland Mendy sent Real ahead in the 29th minute.

Antoine Griezmann levelled with a milestone goal for Atletico to become their all-time leading scorer and Kepa Arrizabalaga's own goal sent the Rojilbancos ahead. Dani Carvajal then smashed Madrid level and forced extra time.

With the game heading towards penalties, Stefan Savic's own goal under pressure from Joselu nudged Real ahead and substitute Brahim Diaz wrapped up the win on the counter-attack with Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak stranded out of position.

“It’s nothing new, it’s pure Real Madrid DNA," manager Ancelotti said about his team's fightback victory. "Let it be a good learning experience for the youngsters: this team never gives up. You can lose, but never give up.”

Diego Simeone's Atletico are the only team to beat Madrid this season, in September, and they started strongly with Samuel Lino testing Arrizabalaga shortly before they took the lead.

Hermoso headed in the opener after six minutes from Griezmann's corner as Rodrygo failed to challenge him in the air.

Rudiger levelled for Madrid in similar fashion as he escaped Savic and nodded Luka Modric's corner home.

Madrid, unbeaten in 20 matches, were in the ascendency and full-back Mendy capitalised with a deft flicked finish from Carvajal's low cross.

Griezmann headed into Arrizabalaga's hands before pulling Atletico level in a gripping first half, turning away from Modric before driving home from the edge of the box.

The goal took him ahead of the late Luis Aragones as Atletico's all-time top scorer on 174 goals.

Saudi Arabian spectators, despite mainly supporting Real Madrid, jeered Los Blancos midfielder Toni Kroos, on as a second-half substitute, after he criticised players moving to the country from European football last summer in search of riches.

“I don’t understand the booing and I don’t think Kroos does either," Ancelotti said. "I really don’t understand them. Regarding the decision [to substitute Kroos], Toni has arrived with a discomfort and I preferred to put in a fresher player. The truth is that these are very complicated decisions, very complicated.”

Oblak made a fine save to thwart Carvajal before Atletico took the lead with 12 minutes remaining.

Arrizabalaga collided with Alvaro Morata as he tried to catch a cross and the ball bounced into Real's goal off the on-loan Chelsea stopper.

Real protested, pleading for a possible foul by Morata, but the officials saw no infringement.

However, Carvajal struck with five minutes to go, rattling a rebound into the top corner after Jude Bellingham's effort was cleared off the line.

“He is a fantastic player, with a tremendous personality, a spectacular character," Ancelotti said of Carvajal. "He has been involved in two goals, demonstrating a presence that, like Mendy, is key for us. He brings a lot to the attack.”

The game tightened in extra time, no longer as end-to-end, neither team able to carve out clear chances with the abandon they managed during the opening 90 minutes.

Eventually, Madrid nosed ahead four minutes from the end, with substitute Joselu heading Carvajal's cross at Savic, who deflected the ball beyond the scrambling Oblak and into his own net.

With Atletico desperate for a leveller, Oblak was caught out of position and Diaz raced forward to beat him to the ball and steered into the empty net from distance to seal the win.

Real now need to rest and recuperate before contesting the final, where they will aim to win their 13th Super Cup.

“There are four days left, but the wear and tear has been terrible," Ancelotti said. "It was very hard. The match was back and forth, very competitive, with two teams fighting a lot. We won because we were more energetic at the end.”

Atletico face Real Madrid three times in under a month, with their next clash quickly arriving in the Copa del Rey next Thursday.

"We have a [chance for] revenge and we need our fans behind us in our stadium," Atletico's Koke told Movistar.

However, Atletico manager Diego Simeone disagreed with the midfielder.

"It's not revenge, in football there is no revenge," said Simeone. "It's a new knock-out game that will be different to today."

Updated: January 11, 2024, 7:36 AM