Real Madrid dominated the game in the first half, but did not score and paid a steep price for it. FC Barcelona took advantage of their chances in the second half, and ended cruising their way to a comfortable 3-0 win at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu this Saturday. Second-half goals from Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Aleix Vidal were enough to lift Los Blaugranas to an impressive win that could have placed the nail in the coffin of La Liga’s title race.
Real Madrid looked better in the first half
There is no question Real Madrid started the game better, as Los Blancos created two very clear chances in the first 10 minutes thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese forward had a goal disallowed in the third minute due to offside on a header from close range, and later he failed to struck a shot from near the penalty spot on a low cross from the left end of the box.
FC Barcelona did not look comfortable, and their attacking players failed to represent much of a threat. Messi was playing extremely far from the box, and Suarez did not get into much of a rhythm since Madrid were smart to annull him. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric were in complete control of the pace of the game and despite the lack of chances, Real Madrid looked far more composed going forward.
Paulinho was Barca’s biggest threat, but Madrid generated the clearer opportunities
Barca’s first clear chance came in the 30th minute. A lobbed through ball from Sergi Roberto found Paulinho and the Brazilian struck a shot on target, but Keylor Navas was absolutely inmense to deny Los Blaugranas from netting the opener. Real Madrid answered quickly, however, and once again Ronaldo complicated Barca’s defensive line. Ronaldo tested Ter Stegen with a low shot from a tight angle, but the Germany international was magnificent to deny the Portugal star. Ronaldo looked active, but he was not accurate in the final meters.
Paulinho had another chance in the 39th minute, but Navas denied him once again. A good passing sequence on the left side of the attack ended with a cross that saw the Brazilian rising above the rest. However, the Costa Rica international was once delivered a stunning save to deny the former Tottenham playmaker. Surprisingly, Paulinho ended being Barcelona’s biggest attacking threat since Suarez was isolated and Messi dropped deeper just to get in touch with the ball.
Benzema had the final scoring chance in the first half with a header following a cross from Marcelo. However, the French striker’s header hit the post when Ter Stegen was absolutely beaten. The first half ended with a scoreless draw, but Madrid did enough to deserve the advantage.
Luis Suarez breaks the deadlock early in the second half
The second half started quite similar to the first one, in the sense that neither side looked accurate or dangerous in the final third. But unlike what happened in the first 45 minutes, this time Barcelona generated the first chance when a low cross on the left found Suarez. The Uruguayan star blasted a shot towards the near post, but Navas was magnificent once again to deny the attempt.
Suarez wouldn’t be denied in the upcoming sequence, though. A swift passing sequence led by Ivan Rakitic found Sergi Roberto on the right side of the box, and the defender’s low cross found Suarez on point-blank range. The Uruguay star tapped the ball home, putting Los Blaugranas on top – and deservedly, based on what they had done early in the second half.
Messi added a second goal against a struggling 10-men Real Madrid
Barca looked far more composed after the goal, and generated problems every time they moved into the final third. Suarez had another chance following a through ball from Messi, but his effort went wide into the side netting. But a few minutes later, Barca added a second goal when a confusing sequence ended with Dani Carvajal sent off. The right-back denied a header from Paulinho with a clear handball, and Messi found the back of the net from the spot to make it 2-0.
Los Merengues needed to do something to spark things up. Aside from sending Nacho to replace Benzema – in order to re-structure the defence – both Marco Asensio and Gareth Bale replaced Casemiro and Kovacic, respectively. The idea was to use the pace of Bale and Ronaldo on the counter, but Los Merengues struggled to create chances on a consistent basis despite playing with a 4-2-3 during the final minutes. The Welsh winger had a very clear opportunity in the 78th minute, but his shot from close range went straight to Ter Stegen when he should have done far better.
Final minutes & conclusion
Barca looked in absolute control during the final minutes, and they could have added a third goal in the final minutes. Semedo and Andre Gomes came close to score, but Navas denied him with another stellar save. And while Real Madrid had two sequences where Sergio Ramos could have netted from close range, Barcelona’s win was never in doubt. They cruised their way in a tough environment, and the three points further extended their advantage in the top spot in La Liga standings. The game was all but over, and Aleix Vidal netted a third goal on stoppage time following a delightful assist from Messi.
Real Madrid did not have a good performance, and it is worth asking whether they have a legit chance to win the title anymore. They sit quite far behind Barca in the standings and if they play like this in the future, then they won’t have business measuring against the top teams. They looked overmatched, out of ideas, and struggled on both ends of the pitch in the second half.
Without a doubt, it was a deserved win for a Barcelona team that simply wanted it more. And they were rewarded for it.
Real Madrid: Navas (7); Dani Carvajal (4), Sergio Ramos (5), Varane (5), Marcelo (5); Kovacic (5) (Bale (6), 72′), Casemiro (5) (Asensio (-), 72′), Kroos (6); Modric (6); Cristiano Ronaldo (5), Benzema (4) (Nacho (5), 66′)
Subs not used: Casilla (GK), Theo Hernandez, Lucas Vazquez, Isco
FC Barcelona: Ter Stegen (6); Sergi Roberto (7) (Aleix Vidal (-), 91′), Pique (6), Vermaelen (7), Jordi Alba (5); Paulinho (7) (Andre Gomes (-), 84′), Rakitic (6), Busquets (6), Iniesta (5) (Semedo (-), 77′); Luis Suarez (6), Messi (8)
Subs not used: Cillessen, Denis Suarez, Mascherano, Digne
Goals: Suarez (1-0, 54′), Messi (2-0, 64′), Aleix Vidal (3-0, 93′)
Referee: Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez
Yellow Cards: Vermaelen (19′), Sergio Ramos (59′), Marcelo (83′), Sergio Busquets (88′)
Red Cards: Dani Carvajal (63′)
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