The Spanish El Classico, the biggest club Derby in world football, always a great spectacle. Red cards, plenty of goals, controversial decisions, and this match was no different.
On Saturday Barcelona entertained Real Madrid at the Nou Camp for a league match that included a memorial for Johan Cruyff who sadly passed away recently.
The first half was edgy, with both sides keeping a tight ship at the back and a lot of possession. Not an awful lot really came in the way of chances although the game was end to end.
Luis Suarez could not connect with a pass across the box from Neymar for possibly Barcelona’s best chance of the half. Whilst Karim Benzema fired high and wide for Madrid’s best effort. The two protagonists (Ronaldo and Messi) both saw free-kicks flash over the bar as the sides came in at half time honours even.
That goal only seemed to ignite the team in white as they marched on looking for an equaliser. Soon after in the 62nd minute, quick play down the right from Bale and Carvajal left it for Toni Kroos to set up Benzema, who struck with a remarkable bicycle kick to send the away fans into delirium.
Honours even once more, but Madrid could sense a winner. Soon Cristiano Ronaldo put the ball into the far post for Gareth Bale to power above Jordi Alba and head home for what seemed to be the winner. But as celebrations muted, Bale soon realised that the referee had chalked off the goal for a harsh foul on Alba. A controversial decision, as replays show there really wasn’t much in it.
So back to all square, well apart from on the pitch as Sergio Ramps received his marching orders for a second bookable offence in the 83rd minute on Lionel Messi.
Barcelona seemed to have the bit between their teeth, but for Madrid to continue to press and search for that winner. And it deservedly came in the 85th minute as star man Cristiano Ronaldo received a cross from Bale on his chest at the far post before then lashing the ball through the legs of the advancing goalkeeper Bravo and into the net.
This time the goal stood and Real held on to celebrate an heroic victory at the hands of their arch rivals and to end their 39 match unbeaten run in the process.
A Tactical Masterclass
Real head coach Zidane set his side up perfectly for his toughest test yet as head coach. His choice of Casemiro in the holding role of the Madrid midfield was an inspired decision as he cut out the passing lines of the Barca players on numerous occasions.
Messi, Neymar and Suarez looked relatively ineffective throughout. Carvajal virtually marked Neymar out of the game, Casemiro marked Messi out of any opportunities and Sergio Ramos and Pepe rarely have Suarez an inch.
Brilliant performance from Madrid, I feel though that it is all a little too late for a La Liga push, but if these two meet in the Champions League it is certainly setup for an intriguing tie.
Sources: BBC Sport, Sky Sports.