football

Spanish Super Cup: Kroos inspires Real win, Valverde unhappy with Saudi move


Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos scored directly from a corner as his side booked their place in the final of the revamped Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia by outclassing Valencia 3-1 on Wednesday.

Germany international Kroos caught Valencia’s Jaume Doménech out to open the scoring in the 15th minute, curling a cross towards goal while the keeper was still organising his defence and the ball flew over the line before Doménech could recover.

Isco and Luka Modric scored either side of half-time to put Zinedine Zidane’s side further at ease before Dani Parejo converted a consolation penalty for last year’s Copa del Rey winners in added time.

Real will meet the winners of Thursday’s semi between Barcelona and Atlético Madrid in Sunday’s showpiece at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium in Jeddah that is hosting all games in the expanded tournament, for which the Spanish soccer federation will pocket a reported €40m.

Barcelona coach, Ernesto Valverde, admitted that he has concerns with the new format of the competition and said that playing the competition in Saudi Arabia is a consequence of the football industry’s desire to find more revenue streams. The Super Cup traditionally kickstarted the season in Spain with a two-legged contest between the Copa del Rey winners and La Liga champions although the 2018 edition was played as a one-off game in Tangier, Morocco.

“I know there have been rumblings but football these days is an industry,” Valverde said. “The reason why we are here and why we were in Morocco is because the authorities are looking for more sources of income.”

“It’s not the same thing as playing at home, but here we are,” Valverde added. “If I could choose, I would prefer the old format, but it’s the federation that makes these decisions.”

The move has been criticised by supporters’ groups for excluding the teams’ traditional fanbase and from campaign groups such as Amnesty International due to the conservative Muslim kingdom’s record on human rights.

Valverde also questioned the merits of opening the competition up to Atlético and Real Madrid, who ended last season empty handed. Barça and Valencia qualify for the Super Cup as league and cup winners respectively, while Atlético earned one of the new berths due to coming second in La Liga.

The last spot was intended for the cup runners-up but as Barça had already qualified, Real took the vacant place due to their superior cup record over Real Betis, last year’s other losing semi-finalists.

“For me it’s strange to play the Super Cup with two guest teams. It’s clear that these games are exciting for the crowd but from a sporting point of view there is only one league champion and there is only one cup winner,” added the coach.

“It was always the first trophy of the season between the league and cup winners, I thought that format was fine but it has been changed. When the competition is over we’ll be able to say whether it has gone well or not.”



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