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Gavi shines as Barca beat Madrid to win Spanish Super Cup

Sunday in Saudi Arabia, Barcelona won the Spanish Super Cup 3-1 over Real Madrid in a dominating performance that marked the club’s first championship since Xavi Hernandez took over as coach.

The Catalans turned in one of their best performances in years against their bitter Clasico rivals, inspired by the efforts of the teenager Gavi, who scored twice and assisted on goals by Robert Lewandowski and Pedri Gonzalez.

Xavi, who had great success as a player for Barcelona, returned in November 2021, and this resounding victory, following a summer of massive spending, is evidence that his project is on the right track.

Karim Benzema scored a late consolation goal for Madrid, but they have been far from their best since the World Cup break and are now three points behind Barcelona in La Liga.

Los Blancos conceded the trophy they won last season to Barcelona, who have now won the Super Cup a record 14 times. This was Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti’s first final loss since 2014.

We knew it was a chance we had to take, we’ve lived through an era of changes at the club and in the dressing room, and this will reinforce us to keep fighting for more titles,” Barca captain Sergio Busquets said to Movistar.

“As you well know, (Gavi) competes at an extremely high level despite his young age; most players his age would be playing on the youth team.

“There is a lot of potential in his future and he can still get better. I’m rooting for him to be a game-changer for Barca.”

Critically, Xavi used four central midfielders, with 18-year-old Gavi drifting inside from a nominal starting position on the left and frequently out-thinking Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal.

Without Aurelien Tchouameni due to injury, Madrid had to rely on Toni Kroos as their deepest midfielder, and he was easily overwhelmed.

Thibaut Courtois, the Madrid goalkeeper, made an outstanding early save on a low shot from Lewandowski, and Karim Benzema later headed narrowly wide of the target.

Barcelona finally broke the deadlock when Lewandowski set up Gavi, who calmly slotted the ball home thanks to some strong pressing by Busquets after a poor pass by Antonio Rudiger.

Lewandowski set up Gavi, whose deft run went unchecked thanks to a combination of slick passes from Pedri and Ousmane Dembele.

The second goal was set up by Gavi, who ran onto a pass from De Jong and slid the ball across the face of the goal for Lewandowski to finish with ease.

Up until this point, the highlight of Xavi’s tenure as coach had been the Catalans’ 4-0 win over Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu last season.

Genuine “weaknesses”
Gavi, the 2022 Golden Boy award winner, was the game’s most valuable player and proved that Barcelona is in good hands for the foreseeable future.

Ronald Araujo, a Uruguayan defender who started at right back for Real Madrid, successfully contained Vinicius Junior, one of the club’s rising stars from Brazil.

Courtois stopped Dembele after a great run by Alejandro Balde, and the overworked Belgian keeper was keeping Madrid’s faint hopes alive.

However, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen of Barcelona was not challenged until the 70th minute, when he caught a Kroos shot from a distance after his team had already scored three goals.

For Barcelona’s decisive victory, Lewandowski set up Gavi, who sent in a cross that Pedri tapped in at the far post.

The 20-year-old Pedri is yet another example of the developing young talent at Xavi’s disposal, having won the Golden Boy award himself in 2021.

Benzema’s late goal, which came after Barcelona had already been victorious, was the only blemish on their otherwise spotless record.

We have to learn, this is a tough time and that’s it,” Ancelotti said to Movistar.

“There isn’t much work for us to do. Before the game, we had a good idea that the team wouldn’t be performing at peak levels.

The loss was a blow because it showed where our team needs improvement; now we have to regroup and get ready for the next game.

Perhaps the biggest blow to Madrid will be the confidence boost their opponents will get from the win.

Xavi can take solace in this win, despite the fact that his legacy will be determined by his play in the major tournaments and Barcelona has already been eliminated from the Champions League this season.