After an inspiring display by the arch-rivals Real Madrid against Valencia in the first semi-final of Supercopa de Espana, Barcelona surfaced the strongest XI possible. With Marc Andre Ter Stegen out injured Neto took the gloves, while Arturo Vidal was preferred over Ivan Rakitic. Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid, as usual, came out with a never-say-die intent and in the end, their fighting spirit paid off in an enthralling affair at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Without a doubt, Barcelona dominated and had the upper hand in most of the time. Even though Koke put Atleti in front at the start of the second half after an altercation between the 19-year old Joao Felix and Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and other Barca players during the half-time whistle, that goal by Koke hinted, Atleti had unnerved the Catalans. But the superstar Lionel Messi had equalized in the 51st minute.

Messi scored again but his second effort was ruled out for handball after a VAR review. Antoine Griezmann did put Barça in front in the 65th minute while Gerard Pique thought he had extended their lead moments later but that goal was also ruled out by a VAR review – a fractional offside against Vidal undermined the effort.

Atleti spent most of the time weathering the storm from Barcelona attackers until the 81st minute, where they received a lifeline – Substitute Vitolo was tripped by Neto and Alvaro Morata equalized from the penalty spot. The complexion of the game changed as Atleti rediscovered their spirit and in the 86th-minute Argentine striker Angel Correa scored the winner as Griezmann gave away the possession and left Lionel Messi and Barcelona stunned.

Of course, Neto’s failure to block Correa’s shot, which bounced, but nevertheless, it was all about the matter of intent of how a team wishes to finish in a high-voltage match. A team can play very well throughout the match and still lose when some of the players lack big-match temperament.

Diego Simeone made two tactical changes, which made an impact: Bringing on Koke for Hector Hererra and he scored to take the lead, while bringing on Vitolo for an offensive spark reaped a rich harvest as Atleti stormed back into the game, which almost a lost battle. Vitolo came on for Renan Lodi, followed later by substitute Koke leaving with an apparent injury and replaced by Marcos Llorente.

Simeone’s backline deserves the credit the way they countered the pressure created by Barcelona attackers.

Indeed Barca controlled the game for at least 80 minutes, but in the last 10 minutes made mistakes at which Atleti exploited big time. This is not the first time that Barcelona have bottled a big match. This had happened previously. Big stars may score goals, but if those goals don’t create an impact more often during big matches, then, what is the use of calling yourself a legend!

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