Several experts believed this Clasico was not like the ones in past years. Until last season, games between Barca and Madrid were decisive and often had something at stake but pride… but that is not the case this season. FC Barcelona already won the Liga title, and Real Madrid already clinched a Top 4 finish. Also, we must mention that Los Merengues clearly have their minds on their UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool towards the end of the month.
Despite the negative talk surrounding the game, it ended being a stellar derby that once again featured some of the best players in the world. But Barcelona managed to take advantage of their chances to walk away with a huge win that kept their unbeaten run alive with only two games left on the schedule. Goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi lifted Barca to another impressive win against their rivals, while Cristiano Ronaldo netted for Los Blancos.
Suarez and Ronaldo scored in a thrilling, intense first half
The previous speculation ended as soon as the ball started rolling. Both sides started the game playing with a lot of intensity right from the get go, and Los Blaugranas established the difference first when Suarez found the back of the net before the 10th minute mark. Messi distracted the opposing defence, and the Uruguay international slotted the ball home following a cross from Sergi Roberto.
Real Madrid reacted quickly and evened things up around the 15th minute mark, though. A stunning sequence between Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale ended with the Frenchman assisting Ronaldo – who else? – as the Portuguese star placed the ball past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to make it 1-1.
Ronaldo didn’t back down after his goal, though. He arguably looked like the best player on the pitch during the remainder of the first half. The former Manchester United star had at least two clear chances to find the back of the net, but couldn’t capitalise them. The aggressiveness picked up as the game went on, and things exploded with a red card to Sergi Roberto on stoppage time following an aggression against Real Madrid’s defender Marcelo. The first half ended with a 1-1, but it was clear that both sides would go for the win after the break.
Messi Sparks Barca, But Bale Delivered For Los Merengues
And that’s exactly what happened. Even though Real Madrid didn’t have Cristiano Ronaldo – who left the game during the HT break and was replaced by Marco Asensio – they still tried to dominate the contest, while Los Blaugranas had to send Nelson Semedo – who replaced a lowly Philippe Coutinho – to re-organise the defensive line. Real Madrid seemed to look better, but they forgot one key rule: not give an inch of space to Messi, because the Argentinian star only one centimeter of space to make things happen. And that’s exactly what he did in the 52nd minute.
Messi grabbed the ball on the edge of the box after a pass from Suarez, and what he did afterwards was pure magic – he left two defenders behind, dummied Casemiro, and placed the ball into the near post but surprisingly far from Keylor Navas’ reach. Messi’s goal came almost out of nowhere, and it was an individual piece of skill and magic.
If Messi’s goal was magical, then what could we say about Madrid’s equaliser? Asensio – who looked quite good replacing CR7 – placed a through ball towards Bale, and the Welshman placed his left-footed effort straight into the top corner and out of ter Stegen’s reach to make it 2-2. It was an incredible goal that shifted the momentum completely, as Barca were cruising comfortably but Madrid came back and took advantage of the lone chance they had.
A deserved draw after all
The final minutes had both teams going back and forth, but neither club was able to take advantage of their chances. Messi had two clear opportunities, but Navas came up huge to demonstrate – just like he did against Bayern Munich – why he should remain as the starting goalkeeper for Real Madrid going forward.
Real Madrid had a minor edge on several stats and probably deserved better luck. But Barcelona adjusted in the second half and escaped with a huge draw that kept their undefeated streak alive for one more week. And in the end, El Clasico lived up to the expectations. Just as it has been in recent years.
FC Barcelona: Ter Stegen (6); Sergi Roberto (4), Pique (6), Umtiti (5), Jordi Alba (6); Coutinho (5) (Semedo (5), 46′), Busquets (7), Rakitic (6), Iniesta (7) (Paulinho (5), 58′); Suarez (8) (Paco Alcacer (-), 92′), Messi (8)
Subs: Cillessen (GK), Vermaelen, Denis Suarez, Dembele
Real Madrid: Navas (5); Nacho (5) (Lucas Vazquez (6), 68′), Varane (6), Sergio Ramos (5), Marcelo (6); Modric (6), Casemiro (5), Kroos (6) (Kovacic (-), 84′); Bale (7), Benzema (6), Cristiano Ronaldo (7) (Asensio (6), 46′)
Subs: Casilla (GK), Jesus Vallejo, Theo Hernandez, Dani Ceballos
Goals: Suarez (1-0, 10′), Ronaldo (1-1, 14′), Messi (2-1, 52′), Bale (2-2, 72′)
Referee: Alejandro Hernandez
Yellow Cards: Suarez, Messi, Rakitic (BAR); Nacho, Varane, Sergio Ramos, Bale, Marcelo (MAD)
Red Cards: Sergi Roberto (BAR)
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