Spain’s biggest teams met in an emotional night at Camp Nou on Saturday evening as both sets of fans paid their respect to Dutch legend Johan Cruyff before and during the match.
It was a thrilling affair as you should expect it to be in the Spanish El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Gerard Pique’s header put Barcelona in front after 56 minutes of action, but Karim Benzema’s acrobatic effort equalized the score only six minutes later, before Cristiano Ronaldo sealed the win for his team with a composed finish inside the box with five minutes off time.
Los Blancos managed to close the gap to seven points behind La Liga leaders, who have lost their first domestic game since October 2015 and here are the five things we learned from tonight’s massive match.
Despite their well-documented animosity, Barcelona and Real Madrid share mutual moments of respect and honour from time to time and Saturday was such a night.
Johan Cruyff got the tribute he deserved as the departed legend’s spirit overshadowed the clash between two great rivals at Camp Nou.
Barcelona wore specially designed shirts with “Gracies Johan” written on them, mosaic at the stands was impressive, but so was the standing ovation from every single person at the stadium in the 14th minute of the game.
It was the fourth time both sets of fans applauded in harmony during an El Clasico.
Laurie Cunningham was the first one to receive recognition from rivalling fans in 1980 and he remains to this date the only Real Madrid player to be rewarded with applause from Barcelona supporters.
Maradona earned his plaudits in 1984, Ronaldinho did it in 2005 when his performance in El Clasico mesmerised the crowd at Santiago Bernabeu.
Andres Iniesta was the third Barcelona player to be applauded by Real Madrid supporters in November 2015, but Johan Cruyff is now the fourth one.
Emotional scenes sent a beautiful picture across the globe, a picture of joint recognition of a man who revolutionized football as we know it today.
Zidane lifted the El Clasico curse
Early signs were not promising as Barcelona dominated the proceedings in the opening stages of the match and it looked like Zinedine Zidane will have problems lifting the nine-year long El Clasico curse.
Namely, no Real Madrid manager has won their first meeting with Barcelona since 2007 and Berndt Schuster’s win in December that year.
Manuel Pellegrini tried and failed, but so did Juande Ramos before him and Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez afterwards.
The French manager today created his own destiny as Real Madrid emerged deserved winners from El Clasico they ended with ten men on the pitch following Sergio Ramos’ dismissal for a challenge on Luis Suarez.
Real Madrid could have won by a higher margin but Gareth Bale’s flying header over Jordi Alba was called a foul and his goal was disallowed much to the disappointment of the Welsh star who was on the touchline celebrating the goal with his teammates.
All in all, Zidane’s team got the bragging rights over their arch-enemies and a huge morale boost in their chase for the 11th Champions League title.
With El Clasico curse lifted, Zinedine Zidane will be happy to lead his team to European success that would salvage Real Madrid’s season.
Messi will have to wait for his 500th goal
Lionel Messi bagged a goal for Argentina in Tuesday’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Bolivia taking his goal tally for club and country to 499.
Few would have argued before tonight’s match that Barcelona star could not have gotten the more fitting scenario for a huge milestone than a game against great rivals, but the Argentine dynamo was ultimately left rewardless as he finished a silent night without helping his team score or win.
Lionel Messi had a couple of attempts in the game with the most notable coming in the 54th minute when he wasted a perfect opportunity from inside the box. Keylor Navas deserved all the credit for an astonishing save to deny the argentine his 500th goal.
Messi could have been given the opportunity to score earlier in the game as well, when he was taken down inside the penalty area by Sergio Ramos, but the referee did not blow the whistle for a foul in a debatable call that has raised a couple of eyebrows.
Ronaldo capped a perfect night with a winning goal
Real Madrid star scored his 29th La Liga goal in 31 appearances this season, but the goal was only a cherry on top of a wonderful overall performance from the Portuguese.
He was subjected to heavy criticism during the season, most notably for his negative comments toward the teammates, but Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be denied full credit for his on-pitch behaviour tonight.
Ronaldo was equally engaged in defensive and offensive duties against Barcelona and it was exactly the Portuguese pearl who stopped a decisive pass towards Neymar right outside Navas’ area in the first half to clear all danger in front of his own goal.
His composure in front of goal was cringeworthy at times.
After a couple of wasted opportunities during the night, Ronaldo stepped up when it was most needed to score a winning goal for his side.
Gareth Bale put a cross into the box and found Cristiano Ronaldo at the far post with Portuguese calmly addressing the ball to his chest and sending in into the bottom left corner for 2-1.
MSN vs BBC
It was the night of league’s two best attacking lines going head-to-head in an exhilarating event.
Luis Enrique welcomed back his South American triumvirate from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and thousands of miles across continents, which might have ultimately played its part in El Clasico.
On the other side, Zinedine Zidane had his full crop of players at disposal for the first time this season and the fact that Karim Benzema, scorer of Real Madrid’s first goal, and Gareth Bale did not play for their countries during the international break was an important moment for the French manager.
Fresh and energized after a break, Benzema and Bale played a great hand in Real’s victory taking the BBC’s tally to 81 goals this season and 198 since 2014.
MSN have the upper hand despite the loss having so far scored 107 La Liga goals in the running season and 192 since 2014, but it counted for nothing in the second game in a row without a win for Luis Enrique’s men who will have to up their game in the finals stages of the season.
BARCELONA: Bravo 6.5 – Alves 6.5, Pique 7, Mascherano 6.5, Alba 7 – Rakitic 6 (Turan 6), Busquets 6.5, Iniesta 6.5 – Messi 7, Suarez 6.5, Neymar 7.
Unused subs: Rafinha, Bartra, El Haddadi, Roberto, Ter Stegen, Vermaelen.
REAL MADRID: Navas 7.5 – Carvajal 7, Pepe 7, Ramos 5.5, Marcelo 6.5 – Modric 7, Casemiro 7.5, Kroos 6.5 – Bale 7.5 (Lucas 6), Benzema 7 (Jese 6), Ronaldo 8.
Unused subs: Isco, Casilla, Danilo, Nacho, Rodriguez.
REFEREE: Alejandro Hernandez
Other results this evening
Atletico Madrid 5-1 Betis
Las Palmas 2-1 Valencia