While You Were Asleep: Barcelona set up Super Cup final vs Madrid, Joao Felix sent off on Chelsea debut and Gustavo Alfaro quits as Ecuador coach

Marc-André ter Stegen saved two penalties and Pedri converted the deciding spot kick as Barcelona defeated Real Betis 4-2 in a shootout Thursday to set up a Spanish Super Cup final against rival Real Madrid this weekend in Saudi Arabia.

Madrid defeated Valencia on penalties in the other semifinal on Wednesday, when Thibaut Courtois made the decisive save.

The decisive match will be on Sunday at the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh.

Barcelona converted all four of its penalties in the shootout and Ter Stegen stopped the efforts by Juanmi and Willian Carvalho to give the Catalan club the victory.

The Super Cup used to be played only between the Spanish league champion and the Copa del Rey winner, but now the runners-up in both competitions also participate in Final Four tournament that was taken to Saudi Arabia in a lucrative deal for the Spanish soccer federation.  -AP

Joao Felix sent off on Chelsea debut in 2-1 loss to Fulham

João Félix was sent off on his Chelsea debut for a studs-first lunge as his new team lost 2-1 at Fulham in the Premier League to fall deeper into crisis on Thursday.

The Portugal forward looked disconsolate after being shown a straight red card in the 58th minute for his dangerous challenge on Kenny Tete that caught the Fulham right back just below his right knee.

Chelsea’s Joao Felix fouls to see a red card during the English Premier League soccer match between Fulham and Chelsea at the Craven Cottage stadium in London Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Félix, who joined on loan from Atletico Madrid for the rest of the season on Wednesday, was having an impressive game until his sending-off, making surging runs, delivering incisive passes and showing some neat tricks and flicks.

He won’t be able to showcase them again until Feb. 11 as he will now miss league games against Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Fulham. With Félix having joined on a deal costing Chelsea a reported $790,000 a week taking in wages and the loan fee, it is a costly error for both the club and for under-pressure manager Graham Potter.

Chelsea slipped to a sixth loss in its last eight matches in all competitions — its worst run of results in nearly 30 years — thanks to a 73rd-minute winner from Carlos Vinicius, who met a cross from Andreas Pereira with an unchallenged header at the far post as goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga hesitated to come out for the ball. -AP

Alfaro leaves job as Ecuador coach

Gustavo Alfaro has left his job as Ecuador coach, the country’s Football Federation (FEF) said on Thursday.

Ecuador were knocked out at last year’s World Cup in the group stage after a 2-1 loss to Senegal. According to local media reports, the FEF was keen to renew the Argentine coach’s contract, but he declined the offer.

“After several months of talks between the Federation and Gustavo Alfaro, the parties have decided to be free to evaluate and seek new options for the benefit and development of their interests,” FEF said in a statement. -Reuters 

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