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Real Madrid tops Athletic 2-0 to win Spanish Super Cup

Real Madrid's players celebrate after winning the Spanish Super Cup final soccer match between Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao at King Fahd stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Jan. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

MADRID (AP) -- Real Madrid won't be going a second consecutive season without a title.

    After failing to lift a trophy under Zinedine Zidane last season, Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid secured the Spanish Super Cup with a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday in Saudi Arabia.

    Luka Modric and Karim Benzema scored a goal in each half of the final as Madrid comfortably defeated the defending champions to reinforce its status as the top team in Spain this season.

    Madrid has already beaten Barcelona twice -- including in the Super Cup semifinals -- and Atletico Madrid once, and is more than 15 points ahead of both rivals halfway through the Spanish league season. Ancelotti has also led Madrid to the knockout stage of the Champions League.

    Madrid went without a trophy for the first time in more than a decade last season under Zidane.

    "This is motivation for us to keep going," Ancelotti said. "We have to keep competing like this."

    Madrid's 12th Super Cup title moves the club only one behind Barcelona, the competition's most successful team. Athletic was seeking its fourth Super Cup trophy.

    It was Madrid's second Super Cup title since the competition was moved to Saudi Arabia in 2020. It had won the first edition of the tournament in the Middle East country by beating Atletico in the final.

    The Super Cup returned to Spain in 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Spanish soccer federation has had to defend itself from criticism from human rights groups for its decision to play in Saudi Arabia in a deal reportedly worth 30 million euros ($34 million) a year through 2029.

    Athletic was seeking its second consecutive title after defeating Barcelona in last year's final. It beat Atletico in this year's semifinal in the revamped "Final Four" format.

    Modric opened the scoring with a curling shot into the top corner after being set up by forward Rodrygo just inside the area in the 38th minute. Benzema added to the lead by converting a 51st-minute penalty kick after a handball determined by video review.

    Athletic had a chance to move closer in the final minutes but Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois saved Raul Garcia's penalty kick with his left foot. Madrid defender eder Militao was sent off for the handball that prompted the penalty.

    "We could have gotten back into the game but Courtois ended our chances with that save," Athletic defender Oscar de Marcos said. "It's a shame but we have to be proud. It's not easy to make it to these finals. We competed against great teams."

    Madrid's triumph gave veteran Brazil defender Marcelo a record-tying 23rd title with the club since he arrived in 2006, joining Paco Gento. It moved him ahead of former central defender Sergio Ramos, who is now with Paris Saint-Germain. It is Marcelo's fifth Spanish Super Cup title. He entered the match as a substitute in the 86th and lifted the trophy as team captain.

    Madrid was without defender Dani Carvajal because of a positive coronavirus test.

    There was a limited crowd at the 62,000-capacity King Fahd Stadium because of the pandemic.

    SUSPENDED MATCH

    Sergio Canales scored in the 73rd as Real Betis beat Sevilla 2-1 in a Copa del Rey match which resumed a day after a Sevilla player was hit in the head by a piece of PVC thrown from the stands at Betis' Benito Villamarin Stadium. Betis advanced to the quarterfinals. The game was suspended at 1-1 on Saturday.

    VALENCIA ADVANCES

    Marcos Andre scored a minute into the match as Valencia beat Atletico Baleares 1-0 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey. Atletico was the last third-division club still in the competition.

    ELCHE WINS AGAIN

    In the only Spanish league game on Sunday, Elche beat Villarreal 1-0 at home with a 78th-minute goal by Lucas Boye to win its third straight match in all competitions.

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