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Sunday’s Clásico was an excruciatingly tight game of football that either side could have won. Over the 90 minutes, neither team was clearly superior to the other.
But football is all about taking your chances. Real Madrid took two of theirs and when Barça took one of their own, it was too little too late.
It’s a result that leaves Barça with more of a mountain climb in what remains of the season, five points adrift of the top of the table, which is at least momentarily occupied by Real Madrid, with Real Sociedad yet to play.
More painfully, it’s the fourth consecutive Liga defeat for Barça in this fixture, and the second in a row at Camp Nou, which despite the result, was in finer voice than ever for the Sunday afternoon kick-off with 86,422 souls packing the terraces.
As expected, Barça started the game playing the possession game, with Real Madrid always ready to pounce on the counter, but it took some time for any of that to produce much in the way of real drama.
Flashes of brilliance from Vinícius Júnior were the standout moments, but it was Barça who really should have taken the lead when Sergiño Dest skied the most glorious of chances.
You can’t afford to miss chances like that El Clásico and Barça were made to pay moments later when David Alaba was found free in space and ripped a left-footer into the net.
From the goal, the game lost more and more of its structure and came to resemble much more a Clásico ... frantic, end-to-end football with both sides working their way into scoring positions with surprising ease.
Either side of half time it was the Catalans who getting most of the big chances. Ansu Fati, Gerard Piqué, Philippe Coutinho… things were happening.
The all-whites hadn’t gone to sleep. Far from it. But the Barça defence was doing a fine job of getting their bodies in all the right places to neutralise most of peril, and Ter Stegen was always in the right place when the ball did find a way through.
In particular there were a couple of chances that Karim Benzema would normally have expected to bury, but Barça were let off the hook and as the game drew towards its conclusion, Alaba’s goal was still the only thing splitting the teams.
Two late goals
Deep into the seven minutes of injury time, Barça made one final drive in search of an equaliser. There was a moment of utter confusion as the ball pinballed around the Madrid area… nothing came of it but on a rapid counter Marco Asensio ended up firing straight at Ter Stegen and Lucas Vazquez met the rebound. 2-0 to Madrid and precious little time left for a comeback.
Not that Barça didn’t give it one last effort, and in the final move of the game Dest found Sergio Agüero and the Argentinian, just minutes after coming on, converted his first goal in a Barça shirt.
He’d have liked to come in better circumstances. Ultimately, it was just a minor consolation for a Barça team that had lost another Clásico.
There's little time to dwell on what's happened. In 72 hours from now, Barça will be back at it again with a Wednesday fixture at Rayo Vallecano (7.00pm CEST).
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