Thibaut Courtois proved the hero on Sunday as Real Madrid beat city rivals Atletico Madrid in a penalty shootout in Saudi Arabia to win their 11th Spanish Super Cup.
Keepers 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,” Valverde said.
“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 Real 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.”
The focus before the tournament was more on the decision of the Spanish Football Federation to move this year’s Super Cup – a four-team competition rather than a straight final – away from Spain and to Saudi, despite the country’s long-criticised treatment of women and record on human rights.
For all the controversy off the pitch, on the pitch, the tournament 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.
And although the final lacked goals and quality finishing, there was drama until the end.
Both teams had good chances to win it late on, yet the most dramatic moment was to come as Saul sent Morata clean through, with only Courtois to beat, before the chasing Valverde scythed him down from behind.
The red card was inevitable but Atletico only had a free-kick and a one-man advantage for four minutes. Trippier hit the free-kick into the wall and Real held on for penalties.