FC Barcelona went into the Santiago Bernabeu and conquered Real Madrid with a 4-3 win in El Clásico on Sunday night.
Andres Iniesta got the scoring started in the seventh minute as a great pass by Lionel Messi found Don Andres wide open on the left, and Iniesta slammed it high and past Diego Lopez for the 1-0 lead. Karim Benzema tied it up in the 20th minute as Angel Di Maria's cross set up the Frenchman who headed it in for the equalizer. Just four minutes later, Di Maria set up Benzema once again as poor FCB defending lead to Karim having an open shot on net and a 2-1 Madrid lead. Lionel Messi tied things up in the 42nd minute as a nice pass to Neymar inside the box was broken up but Leo recovered the ball and put it to the left of Lopez for the equalizer.
In the second half, a questionable penalty was called in favor of Madrid, and Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up and gave Los Blancos the 3-2 lead. Neymar was taken down inside the box by Sergio Ramos, who was given a red card, and Messi put it past Lopez to tie things up once again. Finally, in the 84th minute, Andres Iniesta was fouled inside the box by Xabi Alonso, and a penalty was given. Lionel Messi stepped up and slammed the ball to the high corner and in for his hat trick and for the game winner in one of the most intense Clásicos in recent history. Wow!
FT: Real Madrid 3-4 FC Barcelona
Let's get to The Best, The Worst, and What We Learned from El Clásico.
The Best: Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Gerard Pique, Karim Benzema
Angel Di Maria was killing Barça in the first half. He set up Benzema on both of the Frenchman's goals. No one had an answer for El Fideo. Not Dani Alves, not Mascherano, no one! It was embarrassing, but it shows how much skill Di Maria has in his game. Gerard Pique stepped up in a big game once again. I know I've been critical of Mr. Shakira, but my frustration with him stems from his inconsistency. But not on Sunday night! Pique made great stops on Madrid crosses and had a stop on the goal line when Benzema nearly made it 3-1 in the first half. Karim Benzema had a great game as well, as the striker grabbed a brace and threatened Victor Valdes' goal posts.
Once again, Lionel Messi showed the world why he is the best player in the world, and the greatest of all time. Messi is now the all-time leading goal scorer in El Clásico history, surpassing Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano. Messi's passes were straight surgeon-like. His passes to Andres Iniesta and Neymar were perfect and lead to Iniesta's goal and Neymar's penalty. Speaking of PKs, both of Leo's kicks on the PKs were lovely, especially the game-winner. Diego Lopez had no chance on that kick to seal the Barcelona win and give King Leo a hat trick.
The Worst: Dani Alves & Javier Mascherano, Neymar, Pepe,
Dani Alves had a better second half of the game, but his first half was truly awful. He continued to get beat by Di Maria and Cristiano. His poor defending on Di Maria lead to Madrid's second goal. Javier Mascherano had a poor game as well. It's evident that FC Barcelona cannot go into next season with Masche at CB. Nothing against Javier, it's just that he is not a CB. Madrid was hurting FCB with high crosses into the box, and for the future, Barcelona are going to have to get a true, tall centre back to counter Madrid's aerial threat. Neymar was not himself on the night. He was too anxious, made poor passes, and was not ready for the game mentally. Glad he got the penalty call, but still, I expected more for Neymar. I am not worried about Neymar in future Clásicos, but the kid will take this game and learn much from it. Pepe was once again causing drama again. The Academy Awards await you, Pepito.
What We Learned: This El Clásico reminded us why this is the greatest rivalry and the greatest game in the world.
We all know all bets are off in El Clásico. And on Sunday, we saw why El Clásico is the greatest rivalry in the sports world.
This game brought out so much emotion in all of us. For me, I was happy when Iniesta scored, then sad when Benzema tied the game, then upset after Madrid took the lead, then happy when Messi tied the game, then mad at the ref for the PK which Ronaldo scored, then relived when Messi got the PK, and finally overjoyed when Messi got the hat trick and Barcelona won! Wow!
I think I lost 10 pounds and three years of my life while watching El Clásico. But you know what, for an FC Barcelona win, I'll gladly make that sacrifice.
I'm glad FC Barcelona won, but I must say that Real Madrid is a tough team. Yes, as a Culé, I despise Madrid. But I'm not going to say that Madrid is not good (that'd just be pure ignorance on my part). And that's what makes El Clásico great: because when your team wins, it feels good because it's your hated rival and knowing you beat a good team. Clásicos are always special, but when both teams are strong, it makes winning that much sweeter!
El Clásico is just more than a game for those in Spain and in Catalunya. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, please go do some research on the history of this rivalry, and its significance socially, historically, and culturally to Catalan and Spanish people.
Since 2009-10, El Clásico has been much more entertaining as the two best players in the world face off. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have elevated El Clásico from the best game in the world to the best game, best storylines, choose-your-side game and rivalry in sports today. It's almost become a soap opera on the pitch. After the game, Ronaldo once again showed why he lacks class: "Don't want to look for cheap excuses, but the referee was not up for this game. Maybe they wanted Barça back in the race."
Stay classy, Ronaldo. And Cristiano wonders why so many people, not just Culés, think he's a spoiled crybaby. You won't hear anything like that from Messi, ever.
On Sunday, Cristiano didn't step up (minus a poorly-called PK), meanwhile, Messi powered his team to a win in hostile environment-grabbing a hat trick and being involved in all of Barcelona's goals.
Madrid columnists call Cristiano "Superman", but on Sunday, the world was reminded once again that "Superman" cannot compare and will never defeat D10S.
Grande D10S! Grande Messi! Greatest of all time!
What's Next?: Wednesday vs. Celta Vigo
FC Barcelona will return to the Camp Nou on Wednesday and host Celta Vigo. Look for Marc Bartra to possibly get a start. Alexis should start as well as he didn't play much against Madrid.
Xoel's Final Word:
It was a tough battle, but in the end, FC Barcelona went into hostile territory, and came out with a win in El Clásico, defeating Real Madrid 4-3 on Sunday.
Our Barça heroes went into the Bernabeu, and showed the world the heart and power of FC Barcelona is the heart and power of a champion.
Xoel, The Voice of Culés