Despite being an open game with many chances, it was a late Lionel Messi penalty that was the difference between the two sides in an exciting encounter
Both sides began the match in relaxed fashion and looked to keep possession early on. Indeed, it would be 10 minutes before the first real chance of note, with Martin Braithwaite, on his first start for Barça, drawing a save from Álex Remiro.
After a period of relative calm, where the midfields of both sides dominated the control of the ball, La Real’s Alex Isak sent a header over just before the half hour and then Lionel Messi’s one-two with Sergio Busquets almost saw Barça’s captain give them the lead, Remiro again equal to the shot.
Portu was inches away from connecting when well placed shortly after, with Braithwaite a threat each time he received the ball at the opposite end. At times, Barça’s inter-play was a joy to watch, and although the game began to open up it remained goalless at the break.
The pattern of the match continued in the opening exchanges of the second half, with Messi rifling another shot the wrong side of the upright on 53. Half chances continued to come and go for both sides, and as the match moved into the final half hour, there was still everything to play for.
Remiro, at full length, pulled off a stunning save to deny Ivan Rakitic, and a minute later Gerard Piqué could only find the keepers gloves with a header. Another free-flowing move almost provided the opener for Barça, Jordi Alba’s cross flashing agonisingly across goal as the Camp Nou found its voice and pushed the decibel levels ever higher.
With 15 to go, Isak was through on goal for La Real, but the Swede snatched at the chance and put it wide, as did Nacho Monreal two minutes later. However, after the latter chance, play was brought back by VAR for a handball in the opposite penalty area, Messi’s subsequent spot-kick handing the advantage to Barça.
VAR would also rule out a second for the hosts, Ansu Fati being adjudged offside in the build up to Jordi Alba’s injury-time strike.