The new Supercopa de España format has delivered despite the critics, as Atlético Madrid bested Barcelona 3-2 in a thrilling semi-final.
Now, the critical attention turns back to VAR, after two Barcelona goals were waved off – one for a Leo Messi handball, and the other for the slightest of offsides by Gerard Piqué.
The first half of action featured a good deal of Barcelona opportunities, but Atleti fended off the barrage effectively enough to enter halftime deadlocked at 0-0.
The match wouldn't remain scoreless for long, as substitute Koke scored 17 seconds into the second half, the result of some neat passing and aided by negligent tracking by Barcelona midfielders. The lead was short-lived, however, as Messi pulled his team level in the 51st after winning a two-on-one battle at the top of the box.
The Catalan's talisman found the back of the net again just minutes later, but VAR called it back for hitting the midfielder's arm before the shot.
Barcelona did go up 2-1 just after the hour mark, as a surging Jordi Alba served a beautiful early ball in from the left flank. The cross found the head of a flying Luis Suárez, and Jan Oblak's fantastic save–one of his seven on the game–could only make it as far as the head of an oncoming Antoine Griezmann, who put the ball home.
Gerard Piqué appeared to slot home a third Barça goal in the 74th minute, after a wonderful Messi free kick was crossed in front of the goalmouth by a lunging Arturo Vidal. This time, VAR determined that the defender was offside, and Barcelona was stripped of what would have been a commanding lead.
In the end, it was exactly the break needed by the Madrid side, who were able to convert two goals in the final ten minutes to tip the balance. Vitolo was brought down by Barcelona back-up goalkeeper Neto, who conceded the penalty and was sent the opposite direction by a calm Álvaro Morata.
Five minutes later, Atleti scored again, pouncing on a careless clearance in the middle of the pitch by Piqué to surge up the field, where an outstretched save by Neto couldn't quite keep Ángel Correa's shot out of the net.
It was a glorious new beginning for the Real Federación Española de Fútbol, who received a good deal of flak for the new four-team format and, more controversially, for awarding Saudi Arabia the hosting rights.
The result thus far has been two excellent semi-finals, as Real Madrid beat Valencia in yesterday's match 3-1. That means the final on Sunday will feature a Madrid derby that should produce the usual fireworks, despite being nearly 3,000 miles from home.