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La Liga: Real Madrid 3-1 FC Barcelona: Match Review

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A recap of Barcelona's disappointing 3-1 loss in the El Clasico against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

FC Barcelona were unable to win the first El Clasico of the season. In a game filled with back and forth action Real Madrid emerged victorious, winning the game after falling behind early in the game after Neymar's goal. Cristiano Ronaldo (penalty), Pepe and Karim Benzema were the goalscorers for the hosts who were able to secure the three points with a much improved second half.


Real Madrid

Barcelona

Possession

45%

55%

Total Shots

18

15

Shots on Target

6

5

Corners

3

9

Fouls

11

10

Offsides

0

2

Yellow cards

2

4

Red cards

0

0

Neither team prepared many, if any, surprises at all in their starting lineup. Luis Suarez was named into the starting XI, which many, including me, predicted, while Jeremy Mathieu started at left back, with Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano playing in the heart of the defense. The only (slight) surprise in the Barcelona lineup was that Xavi started in the midfield, taking the place of Ivan Rakitić alongside of Andres Iniesta.

FC Barcelona started the match from midfield, but it was Real Madrid who in the early going came closer to the Barcelona goal. However, thanks to some good defending neither of their visits in and around Claudio Bravo's penalty area yielded in a shot on goal.

Barça, though, were able to capitalize on their first chance of the match. After a Real Madrid attack, many players in white stayed on the Barcelona half, but after a few passes Suarez was left in space on the right wing. With one of his very first touches of the ball in a Barcelona shirt the Uruguayan supplied the ball to Neymar, who after a couple of taps of the ball moved to the middle, creating enough space to take a shot. And it was a very accurate shot that went just inside of Iker Casillas' left post and the Spanish international had no answer for the Brazilian's shot who put Barcelona into the early lead.

After the goal, though, it was all Real Madrid who were attacking from the left, the right and through the middle. On more than a couple of occasions the Barcelona defense struggled to contain the Madrid's side powerful attack. In the tenth minute Bravo one again had to thank the frame of the goal, which saved him not once, but twice in a matter of seconds. Both shots that clanged off the frame came courtesy of Benzema who first hit the crossbar with a towering header and was the quickest to the rebound, only to hit the post with the following shot.

After 10 minutes of play the shots were 4-1 in favor of the hosts, two of which hit the frame, but in the department that mattered, goals scored, Barcelona were in the lead. The missing part in that (misleading) stat was the fact that none of Real's four shots went on target. Bravo didn't have to make his first save of the match until the 15th minute when Tony Kross fired a rather tame shot right into the body of the Chilean goalkeeper.

Barcelona were able to withstand Real's pressure, and in the 22nd and in the 23rd minute created two beautiful chances that should've added to Barcelona's lead. Both chances were at Lionel Messi's mercy, but both times he was bested by the veteran standing in between Real Madrid's goalposts. The first one was created by Mathieu, who stole the ball in the hosts' half, found Messi in the middle, but the shot was straight at the goalkeeper. On the very next play Messi squandered an even better chance, this one courtesy of Suarez. The Uruguayan made a perfect low pass from the right wing into the path of Messi, but the Argentine was again unsuccessful in putting the ball past Casillas.

The visitors continued to be the more dangerous side on the pitch, but they were unable to add to their lead. It wasn't for the lack of trying, though, as just before the half hour mark Barcelona again created two chances in quick succession. But on both occasions the Real Madrid defense reacted very effectively, first shutting down Suarez, and then forcing Neymar to lose the ball deep inside of Real's penalty area.

The pressure from Real Madrid immediately after Barcelona's goal signaled that Real Madrid might not just sit back and wait for chances on the counter, but as the game went on, the hosts often allowed Barcelona to control the ball. But Real were able to sustain some pressure around the 35th minute, most of the pressure coming after a terribly cleared corner kick, and the play was whistled dead after Pique handled the ball after trying to block a low cross into the middle. Obviously, Ronaldo stepped up to take the spot-kick and La Liga's leading goal-scorer sent Bravo the wrong way to tie the game at one. It was the first goal Barcelona have allowed in the 2014-2015 La Liga season.

The next chance for either team didn't come until the 44th minute when Pique reacted poorly to a cross, allowed James Rodrigues too much space, and the Colombian was able to get a header off. Thankfully for Barcelona, however, James didn't really get good enough contact not only to trouble Bravo, but to even get the shot on goal.

Going into the second half Barcelona also had another problem on their hand as they had to worry about yellow cards. After just 45 minutes Messi, Neymar, Pique and Iniesta were all booked, on the other side though, Real did not have that same problem as none of the home players were shown a card.

Neither team made any substitutions during the break. Real Madrid quickly started pressuring the Barcelona backline, and just five minutes after the restart the hosts took their first lead of the match, of course, from a set-piece. Real won a corner kick after Pique was only able to block Ronaldo's shot for a corner kick. Kross sent a brilliant cross into the danger area and found a completely uncovered Pepe whose towering header could not be matched by Bravo in the Barcelona goal.

After taking the lead Barcelona began to play more attacking football, even finding some space to play in Real's defensive third, but the home defense stood tall. And on occasions when the defensive line didn't do its job, there was still Casillas in goal. In the 56th minute Casillas brilliantly saved Mathieu's 30 yard shot from the left wing that resulted in a corner kick. But unlike Real, Barcelona presented no danger from corners.

In the 60th minute Luis Enrique made his first substitution, replacing Xavi with Ivan Rakitić. And on the very next play after the substitution the hosts doubled their lead. Real were able to clear the corner kick and James and Iniesta both went after the clearance. However, Iniesta's incredibly poor reaction not only gifted the ball to Isco , but also left Javier Mascherano stranded. With all the space in the world at his disposal Isco made Barcelona pay and the ball eventually found Benzema who fired a perfect shot on goal, forcing Bravo to bring the ball out of his net for the third time.

With the lead now firmly in Real's hands Barcelona were forced to focus on the attack, leaving the back end even more open than it was before this point. With Real's biggest strength being the counter attack Barcelona were playing right into the hosts' hands. Real fended off Barcelona's attacks with relative ease, but as soon as the ball was cleared from their defensive third they were already on the attack, looking for their fourth goal of the night.

In the 69th Lucho changed things up in attack, taking the debutant, Suarez, off the pitch, and replaced him with Pedro. Just three minutes later the Barcelona coach was forced into his final substitution, with Iniesta needing to come off after a heavy clash with Luka Modrić. That just compounded Barcelona's problems who at this point probably needed a miracle to get at least a point from the game.

Barcelona continued to seemingly control the pace of the game, but that control offered Barcelona little in terms of scoring chances. With Iniesta and Xavi out of the game Barcelona lost the midfield creativity they would've needed, and Real were quick to exploit any and all weaknesses. Many of Real's best scoring opportunities came after corner kicks for Barcelona. A good clearance in the penalty area, one pass, and Real just about always had an odd-man rush. On several occasions Barcelona could consider them quite lucky that not more of these counters were finished off by Real Madrid.

Barça were unable to at least make the score-line look more respectable in the remainder of the game, not even testing Casillas. The Catalans lost their chance to win this game midway through the first when Messi missed two excellent chances about a minute apart. If Messi is able to finish off one of those two Barcelona suddenly have a two goal lead and it puts the game on a completely different trajectory. But that didn't happen.

Barcelona will look to return to winning ways in the Spanish league against Celta Vigo at the Camp Nou on Saturday, but first on the docket for Barça is the Catalan Supercup match against Espanyol which will be played on Wednesday.

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1 Barcacatalunya 111
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3 Anders Thomassen 84
4 ThreePar 70
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9 Willis1984 21
10 messism 17
11 FCB4Ever 16
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17 milesbarca 12
18 Ragnar_Lothbrok 10
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22 darkice 8
23 Ian Reynolds 8
24 Tokjee 8
25 Bostjan Cernensek 8
26 footblob 7
27 PG9 7
28 Staralfur 7
29 BoodHernandez 6
30 BarcaLifer 6
31 defeaning_silence 6
32 lord.supertramp 6
33 Richzorz 6
34 MiB75 6
35 Inder Methil 5
36 MMcCoy11_FCB 5
37 Waje.y 5
38 KiwiBarca 4
39 Barca Boy 4
40 footballfordoze 4
41 tebby 3
42 pranaydhone 3
43 govandamin 3
44 SlightlyInsaneCule 3
45 Ayush Tiwari 3
46 hobo_barca 3
47 stocks712 3
48 gimme alredy 2
49 culegun 2
50 Daxterflames 2
51 rasheduzzaman.sourov 2
52 Abdul95 2
53 iAmJustin 2
54 LaSenyera 2
55 CifuentesErick 1
56 manningcoltsfan19 1
57 Aveblaugrana 1
58 TheOnlyPtolemy 1
59 Chatchai Chotiput 1
60 JordiBalboa 1
61 DevilWithin 1
62 TimKerr 1
63 Eddie Pundell 1
64 AzBlaug 1
65 First_Cule 1
66 Jake07 1
67 EZ - E 1
68 Whiterz 1
69 VarkeychanT 1
70 Arron Duckling 1
71 Rajesh1101s 1
72 brodiebomber 1