Real Madrid will play the final in Riyadh after an interminable match

Ancelotti's side produced a perfect penalty shoot-out against a lively Valencia side

AP/HUSSEIN MALLA  -   Real Madrid players celebrate after winning on penalties in the Spanish Super Cup semi-final between Real Madrid and Valencia in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023

Gattuso said in an interview in El Mundo before the match against Real Madrid that Ancelotti was the perfect coach because "he has been able to get inside the heads of several generations of footballers to make them win".  

A perfect and different definition, an explanation of why Carletto has made it until 2023 as Real Madrid coach and European champion. But this year he has a further challenge because the team has been in a spiral of unfamiliar and ineffective play for months and he will have to get his side out of it before Liverpool cross his path again. The World Cup in Qatar will take its toll.  

The Saudi Arabian Super Cup is the launching pad for Real Madrid's bid for another historic season. The setting could not be sadder. A stadium with a small crowd, the one that was, cheered as best it could for Valencia and with a little more verve for Real Madrid with printed banners calling for the club to win a 15th Champions League.

AP/AMR NABIL - Spanish Federation president Luis Rubiales, left, and Saudi General Sports Authority GSA chairman Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal carry the Spanish Super Cup during a news conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019

Luis Rubiales took his seat in a stately seat at the King Fahd Stadium accompanied by all the personalities of a country he once wanted to convert and save from its own future, but now recognises that it is enough for him to do business. He was about to eat the last of the Christmas polvorón, a hard-fought match between Real Madrid and Valencia with extra time to spare.  

The format is an improvement on the summer games, but it's long when the stadium is half empty, the crowd is not cheering and you hear more from the players and the bench than from the fans themselves.  

With Alaba and Tchouaméni in Madrid recovering from injuries, Ancelotti had no problem with a change in the line-up to adjust the rhythm of the players. Camavinga, Nacho and Lucas Vázquez started against a Valencia side with a changed formation that alternated between long balls to Kluivert's run and precise crosses for Cavani to hammer into Courtois' goal.  

AFP/GIUSEPPE CACACE - Real Madrid's Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti on the touchline during the Spanish Super Cup semi-final football match between Real Madrid CF and Valencia CF at the King Fahd International Stadium

The match was between goalkeepers. Courtois has not lost his form and showed his professionalism in the penalty shoot-out by commenting that he knew exactly where each opponent was shooting.  

Mamardashvili is Valencia's biggest asset. He arrived on trial for the academy and has revolutionised the goalkeeping to the point where Domenech has disappeared and Herrerin has to wait patiently for his turn.  

Benzema has been freed from the pressure of the French national team and now sees the fire of his Federation from a distance. His football is dedicated to Real Madrid and this season he wants to lead the team again. He was the one who was awarded the penalty by Cömert and the Frenchman scored with a trademark low shot. A goal in the 39th minute that put the final on track before the break. 

AP/HUSSEIN MALLA - Valencia coach Gennaro Gattuso during a Spanish Super Cup semi-final between Real Madrid and Valencia in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 11 January 2023

Ancelotti brought on Modric for Camavinga, who had to withdraw due to injury and a yellow card. The Croatian has to do a pre-season based on playing few minutes in order to avoid any major problems.  

Valencia's goal did not come through Cavani, who had a header well saved by Courtois, but it was Lino who got the back of Lucas from an unsafe cross and slotted home to make it 1-1 in the 46th minute.  

The white defence has long been more than a little sluggish. They lose concentration and make gross errors that cost Real Madrid goals. To make matters worse, Militao had to withdraw dizzy and Lucas himself also made way for Carvajal after a nasty ankle sprain.  

AFP/GIUSEPPE CACACE - France striker Karim Benzema (left) scores a goal from the penalty spot during the Spanish Super Cup semi-final football match between Real Madrid CF and Valencia CF at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh

Ceballos and Asensio were Ancelotti's lungs for extra time and, perhaps, for penalties because the second half descended into a tedious game where there were hardly any chances and the surroundings were not conducive.  

Gattuso had worked for the equaliser and added a lot to the stalemate to take the game into extra time and penalties. It was his only chance to get something out of this unknown Real Madrid where Vinicius spent more time rolling around on the ground than facing opponents.  

In the penalties Real Madrid showed that they have the quality to take them and to set them up. Benzema, Modric, Kroos and Asensio. Three cool players and another with a "good shot" as Ancelotti said afterwards, although he also joked that it was a good thing they didn't have to take the fifth because the chosen one was Vinicius. 

AFP/FAYEZ NURELDINE - Real Madrid's French striker Karim Benzema celebrates scoring the first goal from the penalty spot during the Spanish Super Cup semi-final football match between Real Madrid CF and Valencia CF at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Courtois gave a masterclass to the media explaining that he knew which way every opponent was going to shoot. He remembered the last penalty that Cavani gave him, he knew that Cömert would shoot hard and high and that Gayá could shoot centrally or to his left, so he shot in the middle and got it right.  

Real Madrid will be in Sunday's final in Riyadh. The crowd is expected to be a little bigger, but the athletics track will still be there to give the match a vulgar feel. It's another matter if Barça are up against them and the option of Xavi needing to lift his first title to justify the summer levers. That will be another story, with Real Madrid's permission.