Real Madrid were knocked out of the Spanish Super Cup bringing to an end a miserable five days.
They did not want to play last Saturday’s league game in snowy Pamplona. They failed to win the game and were not able to fly back to the Spanish capital because of freezing conditions. They went straight to Malaga to face Athletic Bilbao and they were beaten 2-1.
It will be Marcelino’s Athletic that play Barcelona in the final on Sunday and not Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid.
The first half had been a reminder of how quickly things can change in football. Lucas Vazquez has been walking on air recently, performing well at right wing and right back and with supporters calling for him to be offered a new contract.
Raul Garcia, in contrast, was sent off after 12 minutes of Athletic Bilbao’s league game against Real Madrid last month.
But in the first half of this semi-final Raul Garcia scored twice and Lucas had possibly the worst half of his career. First he played the ball out from the back straight to Dani Garcia who slipped a pass through to Raul Garcia who buried his shot past Thibaut Courtois.
Lucas had already been careless with a pass out from the back and with a similar error had now helped Athletic take the lead. On 36 minutes he helped them double their advantage. He grabbed Inigo Martinez in the penalty area and conceded a spot-kick that Raul Garcia dispatched to make it 2-0.
Lucas might have been replaced by Nacho at half time but instead the substitute came on for the injured Raphael Varane.
Madrid’s problems were not just at the back with star turn Eden Hazard doing very little to get them out of trouble. He had once again been off the pace and apart from one shot saved by Unai Simon had caused little threat to Athletic. Zidane had played the Belgian in a more central role from the start before changing his system on the quarter-hour.
On the hour Hazard did tee-up Marco Asensio who thumped the post. He had been lively in the first half too and it was a reminder that Madrid are the masters of playing badly and still getting results.
On 66 minutes Hazard was off and Vinicius came on. Modric was the surprising second change with Fede Valverde coming on. Asensio carried on in the same vein smacking the crossbar with a shot from all of 30 yards out.
Valverde’s impact was almost instant as he crossed to Casemiro who headed across the six-yard box where Karim Benzema swept in from close range. The flag went up and the goal was ruled out by VAR over-ruled and Madrid were right back in the game.
Concerned Athletic coach Marcelino rung the changes and Asier Villalibre’s fresh legs raced clear to score what would have been the third and Athletic in the final. Courtois came out Inspector Gadget style and with a outstretched right arm clawed the chance clear.
Benzema had the ball in the net again but this time the offside flag had been raised correctly and the goal did not stand. Benzema was the shock final change with Mariano coming on for the French centre-forward. He entered the fray immediately after Sergio Ramos had headed agonisingly wide. Would that be the last chance?
Inaki Williams raced away but Casemiro saved the day with a fine last gasp challenge. Madrid poured forward once more but when Ramos headed wide from Vinicius’ cross Athletic sensed the would hold on.
They will face Barcleona. Real Madrid can finally go home but they do so having failed to win the first competition of the season.