Valencia victorious in Super Cup showpiece
Valencia defied all expectations on Sunday evening as they overthrew Barcelona 2-1 to lift the Spanish Super Cup in a packed King Abdullah Sports City stadium. The league leaders were in the 4 team tournament courtesy of a victory against the Azulgrana of the same scoreline to lift the Copa Del Rey 18 months ago, with the latest final having been suspended during the Covid-19 outbreak. Despite seeing off Atlético on Wednesday, there is no doubt Valencia came into the game as underdogs having already suffered a 3-1 defeat against Barcelona in the league this season. They made just one change for the showpiece final, new signing Nicolás De La Cruz coming in for the injured Denis Cheryshev on the left hand side. Barcelona boasted an attacking trio of Ansu Fati, Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi for the encounter.
Barcelona were first to test the water with just 2 minutes gone, former Atlético man Antoine Griezmann drifting across the middle before firing a shot high and wide, with Cillessen untroubled. Just 2 minutes later they found themselves behind, courtesy of some poor defending from a set piece. Daniel Wass swung in the ball from the left hand side, and centre half Mouctar Diakhaby found himself completely unmarked behind Gerard Piqué to head beyond Ter Stegen, the German keeper completely faultless in the goal.
If the early goal surprised Barcelona, the most successful side in the Spanish Super Cup with 13 titles, then just 4 minutes later they were completely shell-shocked as Valencia grabbed a second. Again it was down to some diabolical defending, which Los Che were only too willing to punish. A speculative clearance from Gayà found Maxi Gómez and Kevin Gameiro in a two on one against Piqué, and when the Uruguayan got up well to flick on it left former PSG striker Gameiro completely clean through on goal, the veteran striker producing a sublime chip of the highest order to beat the once again exposed Ter Stegen and give Valencia a dream start.
The game showed no signs of slowing down when 2 minutes later another set piece, this time an inswinging ball from Carlos Soler, found opening goalscorer Diakhaby again lurking in the box, this time his header going just over. Barcelona were handed a way back into the game with 25 minutes gone when they were awarded a spot kick after some great build-up play. A Sergio Roberto throw was worked through the middle by Sergio and De Jong, before play was switched out to former Valencia star Jordi Alba. As the full back cut into the box, Wass attempted to halt his progress but the referee was quick to point to the spot after the contact, a VAR review confirming his decision. Up stepped Lionel Messi who made no mistake in beating Cillessen to give his side hope.
Into the second half and the tried and tested Valencia set play routines almost caught Barcelona out again, a long free kick from Wass being headed on target again by Diakhaby, this time former Mönchengladbach keeper Ter Stegen alert enough to tip the effort over. Former Lyon man Diakhaby then turned provider, this time Gayà with the accurate delivery which Diakhaby headed back across the box to striker Maxi Gómez, who wasted a good chance to increase the lead as he headed just over the bar from close range. Valencia were then forced into a change, Carlos Soler suffering a knock so youngster Smith Rowe being sent on in his place.
Valencia clearly felt Barca were there for the taking as they continued to push in search of a 3rd goal, with most of the trouble coming down the right. A Wass throw-on was brought down by Gameiro, who in turn laid off for Guedes. Guedes used fullback Wass on the overlap before getting the ball back and swinging a first time cross in to the near post, met superbly by Gameiro on the volley but equally well saved by Ter Stegen down low at his left hand side. A few minutes later Wass and Gameiro combined again, this time the Frenchman nodding the throw-in back to Yunus Musah, who played a quick one two before finding former Arsenal academy team mate Emile Smith Rowe in space, the loanee unlucky as his effort was parried onto the bar by Ter Stegen before being cleared away.
As the game headed into stoppage time, Barcelona threw caution to the wind with wave after wave of attack, first off Ousmane Dembélé doing well to dispossess Vieirinha before breaking into the box, his effort blocked by Gabriel Paulista before a cross into the middle was met by Busquets but saved by former Barca keeper Jasper Cillessen. Busquets then tried his luck from range, failing to trouble the keeper. At the death Valencia then thought they had snatched a third on the break, Smith Rowe winning the ball back and using his keeper who in turn found Guedes. A knock down for substitute Thierry Correia was then fired out wide to fellow substitute Álex Blanco, who rather than playing for time opted to put one into the middle, Smith Rowe flicking the ball forward for the unmarked Gameiro to provide the finish, only to be denied by the offside flag.
Still, with precious seconds wasted Barcelona had little time to get the game going again before the full-time whistle handed Valencia a memorable victory, and a historic first piece of silverware for new manager Sie Barlow, who has defied all the odds since taking over the cash strapped club in the summer. The pair now look set to continue to battle it out in the race for the league title, Valencia currently sitting top of the pile but Barcelona still with a game in hand, but the victory will certainly boost the belief within the Valencia camp that this season could exceed all expectations.Share this: