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The first Clásico of the season produced a cruel finale for FC Barcelona, who were just moments away from closing the gap on Real Madrid to just three points, and in doing so inflict the first defeat of the season on the league leaders.
But a Sergio Ramos header in the very last minute of regulation time ruined the moment for a Camp Nou that had seen its team recover from a sluggish first half to produce a vintage display after the break. It wasn’t just Luis Suárez’s header after 52 minutes that was splitting the teams, Barça were well in command before the sickening twist in the tale at the very end.
It’s impossible to describe a Clásico without using the word ‘intensity’, so we’ll get that one out of the way quick. Intensity is exactly what the early minutes were all about. There were crunching tackles, protests as refereeing decisions, sublimely brilliant football and also the inevitable nervy errors.
It was a Clásico at its rawest best with relentless action in every corner of the pitch, yet when the first 30 minutes were up, the number of real chances could be counted on one hand – Sergio Ramos and Varane dealing with the two clearest openings for the home side.
But this was not the kind of Clásico that has become the norm in recent years, with Barça dominating the possession and Madrid looking to hit back on the counter.
Both sides were trying to take the initiative, and as the half progressed the pendulum started swinging more and more the way of Real Madrid. But despite a couple of timid efforts from Cristiano Ronaldo and a header from Varane, Ter Stegen had yet to be fully tested by the time of the interval.
That’s more like it!
Barça clearly needed to up the ante in the second half and there was a lot more spark to their football after the restart. After 52 minutes they finally got the break they needed. A Neymar free kick was delivered right into the danger-zone and Luis Suárez was on it like a true predator to nod the ball home.
The goal was followed by Andrés Iniesta entering the fray after a 40 day absence through injury. The nervy mood on the Camp Nou terraces was now one of celebration.
Now it was the game Barça wanted. The possession was theirs, the creativity was theirs and the chances were theirs. Madrid were being outclassed in every department and Neymar really should have made it two when he had Carvajal nicely beaten but sent his shot skyward.
And still Barça pushed forward. Another golden chance went begging when Leo Messi collected an Iniesta assist and sent the ball skimming wide of Keylor Navas’ post. The culés were loving it – another Barça goal was a far more likely prospect than a Madrid equaliser.
Last minute woe
But Madrid were desperate to have the last say. The all-whites surged forward in the final minutes – Ramos headed just over, then Jordi Alba managed to block a fine chance for Ronaldo. This game wasn’t over yet.
And bang. Right in the very last minute everything went wrong. A Luka Modric free-kick floated into the Barça penalty area and Sergio Ramo’s head was there before anyone else. The ball found the back of the net and the Camp Nou was silenced.
Barça did everything they could to re-establish their lead, but by now the game was into stoppage time and the options were running out. The whistle blew. Right at the very last gasp, a precious opportunity to close the gap on the league leaders had slipped away.
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