Friday, November 24, 2017

Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona: Leo Messi blows La Liga title race wide open

Milos Markovic in Editorial, La Liga 23 Apr 2017

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500 goals in Barcelona shirt / Image via belfasttelegraph.co.uk

No adjective can do justice to a display put at Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night as Barcelona grab a much-needed morale-boosting win which puts them level with Real Madrid and into a thrilling La Liga finish.

Here is our in-depth match report:

Team News & Form Guide

Real Madrid were sweating over the fitness of Gareth Bale who still made it into the starting line-up, but was unfortunately forced to get off earlier than expected due to his injury issues. Zinedine Zidane continued with nacho in the heart of defense alongside captain Sergio Ramos in the absence of injured duo Raphael Varane and Pepe.

Leo Messi hit the turf with a black eye and even bled on the pitch after a clash with Marcelo’s elbow, but still made it through the match. Jeremy Mathieu, Rafinha and Vidal were not that fortunate however as they remained in the medical room. Most importantly however, Barcelona missed a piece of their MSN puzzle with Neymar suspended for the occasion.

Biggest rivals of the Spanish football headed into the El Clasico at Santiago Bernabeu on the back of contrasting stretches of form. Real Madrid secured their place in the semi-final of the Champions League where they will play city rivals Atletico Madrid in the replay of the last-year’s final, whereas Barcelona were eliminated by Serie A champions Juventus.

First Half

The game kicked off with a bang as Real Madrid charged in with full force straight from the off.

Los Blancos will have felt they should have been awarded a penalty with no more than three minutes on the clock when Samuel Umtiti caught Cristiano Ronaldo’s foot in the middle of the run, but the referee had other ideas.

The hosts did not lose their heads over it however as they continued to press hard in the early stages of the match with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema keeping Marc-Andre ter Stegen constantly on his toes.

Barcelona attempted to restore the balance and even went on to have a couple of chances of their own with the best one occurring when Luis Suarez fired a shot over Keylor Navas’ goal from the edge of the box, but it was the hosts who got on the front foot in the openly-contested El Clasico.

Sergio Ramos found himself in a nice position inside the goalkeeper’s area, but fortunately Casemiro was there to pick the captain’s ball which bounced off the post and rolled across goal towards Casemiro who tucked it in.

Four minutes afterwards and the game was all alive again when Lionel Messi displayed a trademark brilliant movement to dance his way past a couple of players and put the ball past Keylor Navas. Messi’s goal helped him edge ahead of Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano as the top scorer in this highly-anticipated fixture.

The high-paced action continued in the final 15 minutes of the first half as well with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos getting in fine positions to score another one for the hosts, whereas it was Alba and Pique who had chances of their own on the other side of the pitch.

Second Half

Los Blancos started the second half in the same manner they kicked off the game, running much quicker on the blocks and attacking in numbers. Ter Stegen is made to work hard straight from the off as Toni Kroos tested his with a shot.

Chances exchanged on both ends of the pitch with Karim Benzema getting in a great goal scoring position as he headed from close range and forcing an instinctive reaction from in-form ter Stegen. On the other end, a minute later, Keylor Navas proves he is in great form himself as he does well to prevent Paco Alcacer from scoring.

The El Casico does not allow you to get your eyes off this game as flares really fired up with goalkeepers stepping up to the occasion to keep the game very much alive and the crowd on the edge of their seat.

And just as you thought that the tempo was slowing down, Ivan Rakitic fires a brilliant top bin golazo after finding some space on the edge of the box. The Croatian midfielder curled it beyond the reach of Keylor Navas.

The match took an unexpected turn when Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos got sent off for a two-footed challenge on Lionel Messi. The 22nd red card for Sergio Ramos in his career left Real Madrid dangling, but Los Blancos refused to go down without a fight.

Zinedine Zidane might have surprised Real Madrid fans with his decision to take off Karim Benzema and bring on James Rodriguez, but it was a stroke of a genius as the Colombian ended up putting his ten-man side level with a brilliant front-post run-in to tuck in Marcelo’s cross.

As the time winded down and fans began to settle for a pulsating draw it was Lionel Messi who did the impossible in the added time, to put a gigantic spin on the game and the La Liga title race itself.

The Argentine scored his 500th Barcelona goal as the ball was cut back to him for a trademark tucking finish from the little maestro.

It is all tied at the top of La Liga table and the title race is very much alive as it was on the very first day.

What a match!

Statistical Overview

  • Barcelona enjoyed 58% of possession to Real Madrid’s 42%
  • The hosts made 22 goal attempts to visitors’ 16
  • Lionel Messi scored his 500th goal for Barcelona
  • Sergio Ramos saw red for the 22nd time in his career
  • Real Madrid & Barcelona are tied at the top of La Liga table with 75 points

REAL MADRID: Navas 7.5 – Carvajal 7, Nacho 7, Ramos 5, Marcelo 7.5 – Modric 7.5, Casemiro 7.5 (Kovacic 6.5), Kroos 6.5 – Bale 5.5 (Asensio 7), Benzema 7 (Rodriguez 7), Ronaldo 7.5

Unused subs: Isco, Casilla, Danilo, Morata.

BARCLEONA: ter Stegen 7.5 (Roberto 7, Pique 7, Umtiti 7, Alba 7.5 – Rakitic 7.5, Busquets 7, Iniesta 7 – Messi 8, Suarez 7.5, Alcacer 7.5 (Gomes 6.5)

Unused subs: Alena, Cillessen, Digne, Mascherano, Suarez, Turan.

REFEREE: Alejandro Jose Hernandez

Other results today

Real Sociedad 1-0 Deportivo La Coruna

Celta Vigo 0-1 Real Betis

Las Palmas 1-1 Alaves

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Milos Markovic


Formerly a Chief Editor at the largest sports site in Serbia Sportske.net, Milos Markovic is an avid football writer who contributes to a variety of online football magazines - most prominently Soccernews.com and Futbolgrad.com. His feature articles, editorials, interviews and match analyses have provided informed opinion and views, helping the football aficionados keep up to date on relevant events in world football.

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