Midfielder Gavi opened the scoring in the 33rd minute at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, by converting Robert Lewandowski‘s pass, and he then crossed for Lewandowski to make it 2-0 before halftime.
Alex Kirkland (Real Madrid) and Sam Marsden (Barcelona) weigh in with reaction and analysis from the final.
1. Xavi’s first trophy gives Barcelona something to build upon
Barcelona will be wary of claiming they are back after having done just that following last season’s 4-0 Clasico win in LaLiga, only to continue to stumble — but the manner of Sunday’s resounding victory and the taste of silverware could prove a key point in manager Xavi’s tenure if sustained success is to follow.
April would have marked two years since Barca’s last trophy, the Copa del Rey under former manager Ronald Koeman in 2021. Since taking charge, Xavi has seen his side twice drop out of the Champions League at the group stages and missed out on the Supercopa, the Copa del Rey and the Europa League last season.
The coach spoke this week of the importance of winning the trophy — the first since he returned to the club 14 months ago — as a platform to build upon. In the end, though, it was Sunday’s performance, more than the trophy itself, that will have supporters believing Barca can once again compete with Europe’s best teams.
They were comprehensively better than Real Madrid, the reigning European champions. Lewandowski could have scored before Gavi did and Ousmane Dembele could have killed the game off with the third goal before Pedri did. Xavi’s decision to pick four midfielders instead of three forwards paid dividends, as did choosing youngster Alejandro Balde at left-back over Jordi Alba and Marcos Alonso.
Barca swarmed all over Madrid, forced them into mistakes and took advantage of their chances while sticking to their style. They are still in construction — beware of false dawns — but this trophy, their first Supercopa since 2018, felt necessary for Xavi, the club and the young players coming through who have not always had much to smile about since breaking into the first team.
2. Defeat exacerbates fears of Madrid midseason slump
Real Madrid didn’t just lose this final — although for this club, losing any kind of final is bad enough. They were totally dominated by Barcelona from beginning to end, struggling to create chances in attack and failing to offer any kind of defensive solidity at the back. Now, Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti is facing serious questions over where this team is heading and what they can aspire to this season.
The performance of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois aside, this was a game without positives for Madrid. Senior players were unable to impose themselves when the going got tough and youngsters looked lost, chasing shadows in the face of Barca’s passing and movement. Eduardo Camavinga had to endure another embarrassing halftime substitution, while it also felt notable that as the game went on, it was Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Dani Carvajal — all veteran winners — who were subbed off.
Yes, there are mitigating factors. The team are clearly dealing with a World Cup hangover, and this was always going to be a challenging period. But the reality is that with the Supercopa lost, they’ll return to Spain to find Barcelona out in front in LaLiga too, and with a tough Copa del Rey last 16 tie away at Villarreal — who beat them in the league last week — next on the schedule.
This is the least important competition Madrid will play this season, but that doesn’t mean defeat stings any less.
3. Welcome to the Gavi show as the 18-year-old steps up
Selected in place of a third forward, the midfielder was nominally his side’s left-sided attacker. In reality, he was everywhere, but it was from the left where he did his best work.
After opening the scoring with a well-taken finish on his weaker left foot, he turned provider to lay on the next two goals for teammates Lewandowski and Pedri.
Given the maturity with which he plays — and the grit and determination — it is easy to forget that he is still only 18. His first-half goal made him the third-youngest scorer ever in the Clasico, after Barca teammate Ansu Fati and Madrid legend Raul.
With three goal contributions in the game, the challenge from coach Xavi will now be to keep delivering those numbers on a weekly basis. His goal in Riyadh was his first since February 2022.
4. Courtois can’t keep on hiding Madrid’s defensive problems
It’s no surprise to see goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois making miracle saves to keep this Real Madrid team in games. The highlight on Sunday was a 13th-minute stop on Lewandowski with Courtois somehow getting down low to his right to tip his shot onto the post with a strong hand. There was more to come: a 51st-minute save from Dembele, and another from Lewandowski three minutes later from a narrow angle.
Courtois denies Lewandowski with an impressive save
Robert Lewandowski fires a shot from outside the box, but Thibaut Courtois denies it with a great save.
But even Courtois couldn’t win this Supercopa alone. Once again Madrid’s defending here — as a unit, as much as the back four themselves — was all over the place. Antonio Rudiger was the guilty party for Gavi’s opening goal, giving the ball away and then failing to react to the danger. For Barca’s third scored by Pedri, it was substitute Dani Ceballos who played Madrid into trouble, with Eder Militao playing his part.
As much as the defence is at fault, the midfield is perhaps the real issue. The absence of Aurelien Tchouameni through injury is being felt more with every game. Kroos can’t or won’t do the same job, Modric was poor here alongside him, and poor Camavinga must be tiring of being hauled off early so often. Forwards Benzema and Vinicius Junior look disconnected from the rest of the team when out of possession, too.
There’s a lot of work for Ancelotti to do on the training ground, but with such a busy calendar at this time of year, there’s little time to do it.
Best and worst performers
BEST, Real Madrid: Thibaut Courtois, goalkeeper
He kept the scoreline respectable with a number of saves, the pick of them being his fingertip first-half stop from Lewandowski.
WORST, Real Madrid: Dani Carvajal, defender
Any of the defence could have been singled out, but Carvajal had a tough time up against Gavi, for which Madrid paid dearly.
BEST, Barcelona: Gavi, attacker
The teenager did not stop. If he was not biting at Carvajal’s heels, he was putting the ball in the back of the net or setting up chances for his teammates.
WORST, Barcelona: Jules Kounde, defender
Unfair to pick even one on a day when Barcelona dominated so thoroughly, but perhaps Kounde will feel he could have been more involved. He likes to be on the ball more but, with Sergio Busquets and Frenkie De Jong ahead of him, that was not possible. He didn’t do much wrong defensively, although will be annoyed to have missed out on a clean sheet due to the late Benzema goal.
Highlights and notable moments
Gavi, the 18-year-old sensation, put Barcelona ahead in the 33rd minute.
Real Madrid tried to play out of back but Barcelona’s defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets intervened, winning the ball and putting Barcelona in the opposite direction. A final pass from Robert Lewandowski found Gavi, who was composed as goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois charged toward him.
GAVI GIVES BARCELONA THE LEAD IN THE SUPERCOPA FINAL 🤩 pic.twitter.com/AZPLjBSaA7
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 15, 2023
Lewandowski appeared eager to get his own name on the score sheet as he doubled Barcelona’s lead in the 45th minute. The assist came from — who else? — Gavi, who returned the favor from this opening goal.
Barcelona easily broke Real Madrid’s midfield press, and it took mere seconds for it to turn into Lewandowski’s goal.
LEWANDOWSKI MAKES IT 2-0 FOR BARCELONA 🔥 pic.twitter.com/51gUuGUuky
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 15, 2023
Pedri, Barcelona’s other youngster at 20 years old, made it 3-0 in the 69th minute.
The goal was nice.
BARCELONA ARE ON FIRE 🔥
Pedri makes it 3-0 over Real Madrid 😱 pic.twitter.com/mBPpKDWzR8
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 15, 2023
Karim Benzema did pull one back for Real Madrid in the 93rd minute, but no one celebrated because the match was already over by that point, and it turned out to be the last bit of action before the final whistle.
After the match: What the managers said
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti on whether this amounted to a humiliation: “(To say) ‘sporting humiliation’ would be a lack of respect. We lost a game against Barcelona, just like we beat them in the league. They played better and deserved to win, that’s all.”
Ancelotti on this being a difficult loss: “Yes, it’s true it isn’t a good moment for the team — we have to hang on, this team has the quality to come back and be competitive in all the competitions. We’re hurting because Madrid usually win finals and we lost, but there’s a lot of season left… I’m not a guy to talk about humiliation, that’s too much, in sport sometimes you win and sometimes they beat you.” […] “It’s not a critical moment. It’s a difficult moment, as happens during the season. You usually have difficult moments, and we have to fix it soon with commitment and attitude, as always.”
Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez on the performance and the trophy: “I am happy because of how we won. When we win and we haven’t played how we should, I am not completely happy. The four midfielders tonight understood their roles. Everything we planned came off. I am happy for the players. They want to win. They have received a lot of criticism, unfair in many cases, and they were liberated today. It’s a massive morale boost and we can work with more peace of mind. It’s also important for the fans. We have seen everything in recent years: financial problems, the departure of Leo (Messi) was big… I hope this will be the first trophy of many.”
Xavi on Gavi: “He is a kid that excites everyone when you see him compete like that. He plays with heart, soul and a character that is contagious for the rest of team… all at the age 18. And his leadership, it’s all natural, from the inside. I have said this many times but I don’t get tired of praising him. He has no ceiling.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
This is Barcelona’s first trophy without Lionel Messi in the 21st century. Barcelona hadn’t won a title without Messi since the 1998-99 LaLiga title.
Gavi became the third-youngest goal scorer in an El Clásico after Ansu Fati and Raúl. Gavi’s goal was his first since since Feb. 6, 2022.
Robert Lewandowski now has eight goals scored in his last eight super cup matches (six with Bayern Munich, two with Barcelona).
With his start, Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets tied Sergio Ramos and Messi for the most Clásicos played all-time (45).
Karim Benzema had now scored in a record six straight Supercopa games, breaking Messi’s streak.
Real Madrid: Los Blancos embark on another cup competition, the Spanish Copa del Rey at Villarreal, on Thursday, Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. ET (watch live on ESPN+). Then, Real Madrid resume league play in LaLiga when they visit Bilbao and face Athletic Club on Sunday, Jan. 22 at 3 p.m. (watch live on ESPN+).
Barcelona: The Blaugrana will also continue their cup chase in the Spanish Copa del Rey when they visit Ceuta on Thursday, Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. (watch live on ESPN+). Then, they pick back up with LaLiga action when they host Getafe on Sunday, Jan. 22 at 12:30 p.m. ET (watch live on ESPN+).