Real Madrid 2-1 FC Barcelona: Down but not without a fight at Valdebebas (2-1)
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Barça’s stunning run of 19 games without defeat has come to an end with 2-1 defeat in Saturday’s Clásico. It’s a result that, as Ronald Koeman made clear before the game, is by no means decisive. Barça are still only one point behind Real Madrid, leaders Atlético are also well within reach, and there’s plenty of football still to be played … but losing the biggest fixture in world football is always a bitter blow, especially when victory would have left Barça in an extremely healthy position indeed.
Instead, it means the job is going to be that much harder. But far from impossible. Very far...
Madrid get going early
As for the game, there may have been no crowd, the venue was the Alfredo di Stefano rather than the Santiago Bernabéu and April showers were pouring from the skies but nothing could dampen the pace and intensity of El Clásico.
It’s football turned up to eleven and right from the off there were chances aplenty for both sides. But much to the dismay of Culers worldwide, it was the home side that was taking them. Real Madrid first found the net on 14 minutes with what was, it’s impossible not to recognise, a quite extraordinary back-heeled goal from Karim Benzema.
And just before the half-hour mark, they had doubled their lead. Toni Kroo’s free kick took a deflection off Sergiño Dest’s back and Jordi Alba was unable to do anything more than help the ball into the net. Despair in the Barça camp.
Madrid could have made it three when Raphaël Varane rifled a shot onto the post and Ter Stegen did brilliantly to prevent Lucas Vázquez from converting the rebound. We needed some Barça magic, and very nearly had it when Leo Messi, who equals Sergio Ramos’ record for Clásico appearances, hit the post directly from a corner…
Mingueza brings hope
The wet and windy conditions were worse still after the break, and Madrid were still creating most of the serious danger – which made it even more elating when Oscar Mingueza, unmarked in the area and despite the most unorthodox of connections, managed to get the ball where it needed to be. 2-1. Barça were right back in it.
The goal put the confidence back in Barça’s football. The game entered a new dynamic. Balls were landing in both areas and both sides could, indeed should, have added to their tallies.
Madrid’s opportunities dried up as their minds drifted more and more to keeping rather than extending their lead. Barça drove forward time and time again. As always on these occasions, the clock seemed to be ticking faster than ever … time was running out.
Two yellows in the space of two minutes and Casemiro was off. There was still time…
Marcelo inexplicably squandered a one-on-one with Ter Stegen. There was still time…
Ter Stegen moved up to join the attack, and with seconds to go, Ilaix hammered the ball onto the crossbar, the ball fell to the German goalkeeper…
But no. An absolutely gut-wrenching finale. Although Barça had given it everything they could, the three points go to Real Madrid. But the story continues…
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