El Clasico: FC Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid: Match Review

Jasper Juinen

A review of Barcelona's disappointing 3-1 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid

Barcelona crashed to a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Real Madrid on Tuesday night – matching their worst-ever defeat against a side managed by Jose Mourinho. Despite dominating the early stages of the game, Barcelona fell behind courtesy of Cristiano Ronaldo’s 13th minute penalty and never looked like recovering. Andrés Iniesta was wasteful with his shooting; Lionel Messi only ever threatened from set pieces and the defense just couldn’t cope with Madrid’s superior athleticism. Ronaldo doubled his tally on 57 minutes, tucking away the rebound following a shot from Angel Di Maria. Raphael Varane added a third a little over ten minutes later, but at least Barça restored some pride thanks to Jordi Alba’s late consolation. Who cares about the Copa del Rey anyway?

Barcelona

Real Madrid

Possession

65%

35%

Total Shots

16

14

Shots on Target

3

8

Pass Accuracy

87%

75%

Fouls

9

13

Offsides

5

2

Yellow Cards

2

1

Red Cards

0

0

Jordi Roura resisted the media pressure and left David Villa on the bench for tonight’s Clasico, instead opting to field the same ten outfield players that lost against AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League. That meant Andrés Iniesta continued in attack with Cesc Fàbregas taking his place in midfield. Although many Culés would have preferred El Guaje to start, at least Barça had a world-class striker in reserve. Would Barcelona be able to secure their place in the Copa del Rey final for a second successive season, or would Jose Mourinho be able to mastermind a valuable win for Los Blancos?

Barcelona started brightly, immediately demonstrating their intent and willingness to attack the Real Madrid defense. Gerard Piqué was the first to test the Los Blancos defense, finding Iniesta in space on the left with a sumptuous cross-field pass. Iniesta skipped inside the challenge of Sami Khedira and let fly from all of 25 yards; but his effort was never going to trouble Diego Lopez who restarted play with a long goal-kick. However, there was to be no respite as Barça quickly recovered possession and stretched the Madrid defense again – this time Pedro was given a chance to stretch his legs, and he went straight to the point, taking the game to Fabio Coentrao on the right flank. Pedro squared the ball at the second-time of asking, where Lionel Messi was waiting, ready to pounce. Unfortunately even Messi couldn’t hit the target (albeit from a tight angle) but the early signs were promising. Barcelona were ready to play.

Real Madrid on the other hand were struggling to gain a foothold in the match; even on the counter-attack, Barcelona were defending valiantly. Dani Alves made a crucial intervention to stop Cristiano Ronaldo in full flight and he made it look easy; it’s just a shame Gerard Piqué couldn’t do the same just minutes later. Despite the fact that Gonzalo Higuain started as the lone centre-forward, Ronaldo was the one breaking through the middle following Iniesta’s blocked shot and he brought out all his old favourites: the step-overs, the body feints – pretty much anything he could think of to bamboozle his former Manchester United teammate Gerard Piqué. It worked.

Piqué dived into the challenge, Ronaldo went to ground, the referee pointed to the spot. For Jose Mourinho, this was like clockwork. Piqué received a caution – possibly for his initial challenge or maybe for dissent – and Ronaldo coolly dispatched the penalty. 12 minutes had been played at the Camp Nou and despite their initial dominance; Barcelona found themselves a goal behind.

The Blaugrana searched for an immediate response and arguably should have at least had the chance to level the game from the penalty spot – if not for what appeared to be a foul on Cesc Fàbregas, then certainly for Xabi Alonso’s malicious body-check on Pedro – but referee Undiano Mallenco was unmoved by either appeal. Andrés Iniesta was also causing trouble from the left-flank and as per usual, he was involved in Barçelona’s best chances, firing wide with a couple of long-range shots and winning a dangerous free-kick from Alvaro Arbeloa. Positioned just to the left of centre, this was Barça’s best hope of an equaliser and from first glance; it appeared to be nestling in the back of the net. Lionel Messi (who else?) stepped up, smartly sent it under the wall – and inches wide of the target, meaning that Barcelona trailed at the break.

Neither manager opted to make a change at half-time, and just like the first-half, Barcelona started the better side. While they were not exactly setting the world alight, they were at least registering shots – the majority of which were blocked in a frenzied exchange on 52 minutes. But just as Barcelona looked to fight their way back into the game, Real Madrid struck again as Cristiano Ronaldo pounced on a loose ball to tuck away his second of the evening following a mistake from the usually dependable Carles Puyol. At this point, the tie really ceased to be a contest. Barcelona had a little over thirty minutes to score three goals against a disciplined Madridista defense – even as David Villa entered the fray, no-one really expected Barça to mount a comeback.

Especially as things got worse about ten minutes later.

Assisted by Mesut Ozil’s in-swinging corner, Raphael Varane powered home a third on 68 minutes; at which point even the most optimistic Culé was forced to admit defeat. Thankfully, the Madrid pressure relented following the third goal. Cristian Tello replaced Pedro and Thiago took Xavi’s place in midfield, not that it really mattered, while Pepe was bizarrely brought on for Mesut Ozil. As if the 4-1 aggregate lead and three away goals were not secure enough for Jose Mourinho...

Admittedly Barcelona did pull one back; a consolation of sorts courtesy of Jordi Alba after a nice assist from Andrés Iniesta. While the result is naturally disappointing, it’s good to finish on something of a "high" with Saturday’s Clasico fast approaching. Sure, Barça have to learn from their mistakes, but now is not the time to dwell on one result. Last time I checked, Barcelona had a 12 point lead at the top of La Liga and – contrary to popular belief – are still in with a shot of lifting the UEFA Champions League. More so than ever before, the team could really use some support.

Next up, Barça travel to the Santiago Bernabeu where they will be looking for revenge against Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid. Until then, Visca el Barça!


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