In the first El Clasico of the 2018-19 season, Barcelona pummeled Real Madrid, scoring five goals while conceding just the one. Even with Lionel Messi on the sidelines, Real’s defense struggled to contain Barcelona’s attacks. Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring but the Catalans were led by a Luis Suarez hat-trick. Barcelona ran into some trouble early in the second half, but ultimately ran over the visitors with Arturo Vidal also scoring late in the game.
With the magnitude of the match it was expected neither manager would be doing any experimenting and that proved to be the case, with Ernesto Valverde going with Rafinha on the right side once again.
While Real Madrid would get first possession and the first attack it would be Barcelona who would open the match as the better team, quickly establishing their dominance of the ball. The Catalans were looking to quickly pin Real Madrid deep who allowed Barcelona to control the ball, but defensively they allowed very little.
But as Real attacked and opened up in the 11th minute, Barcelona launched a quick counter with Jordi Alba being sprung behind the defense by a lovely deep ball. Sprinting down the left wing the Spaniard was looking for options in the middle where Saurez was trying to get open. Showing excellent patience, Alba didn’t try to force the ball to the Uruguayan but found the completely uncovered Coutinho behind him who made no mistake - sending the ball into the unguarded net for the lead.
Barcelona continued to pile on the pressure, allowing Real very little. In the 19th minute, amid relentless deep pressure from Barcelona, Nacho Fernandez turned the ball over just outside of the penalty area, gifting a look on goal to Arthur, but his curling 20-yard effort was brilliantly saved by Thibaut Courtois. On the other end of the pitch, Real Madrid were slowly starting to show more life in attack, but Barcelona’s defense, which allowed more shots than Real had, were able to keep those shots from the distance.
In the 28th minute, Suarez was brought down in the area by Raphaël Varane. Play continued as referee José María Sánchez Martínez didn’t point to the spot, but as play stopped moments later, with assistance from VAR and a quick sidelines review, the penalty was awarded. Suarez stepped up himself and even though Courtios guessed right, the Uruguayan’s shot was too good to be saved.
Neither side created much in the remaining 15 minutes of play, though it wasn’t for the lack of trying. Both teams looked to create chances, but neither managed to do so, however, Barcelona’s attacks were more convincing, and on a couple occasions the Catalans came close to an actual chance, but the final pass just lacked a little bit of accuracy. With Real’s defensive line committing numerous turnovers Barcelona probably should’ve done more in the final minutes of the first half.
In desperate need of a positive result, Julen Lopetegui left Varane in the dressing room and replaced him with offensive threat that is Lucas Vazquez. Barcelona were quick to start the second half on the offensive, but Ivan Rakitić’s long range effort went well wide. But even though the Catalans attacked first, they would also be the first to concede. The play came down the right wing where Vazquez found Isco who sent a very dangerous ball into the middle where after a bounce it found Marcelo. With the defense scrambling, Marcelo powered the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen to bring Real within one.
Buoyed by the goal, Real were attacking in numbers and Barcelona were struggling to cope with the pressure. The Catalans were living dangerously as the visitors were spending all too much time deep in the Barcelona area. Luka Modrić came within inches of tying the game at two in the 56th minute as his 20-yard shot hit the post and ricochet back across the goalmouth out of danger.
Real’s pressure was not letting up and Barcelona could not seize control of the ball. The visitors left plenty of space open for the counter-attack, but Barcelona couldn’t control the ball long enough to get anything going. Around the one-hour mark Barcelona finally made their way out of their own half before hitting the post as well in the 61st minute. Sergi Roberto headed the ball right into the path of Suarez who acrobatically fired on goal only to be denied by Courtios’ left post. Real Madrid countered quickly to continue the back and forth action, but Isco’s chance was negated by an offside call.
Barcelona would create the next scoring chance with Coutinho finding Alba inside the area for a shot, but his effort was blocked by Sergio Ramos just enough that the ball went wide of the post. In the 68th minute Karim Benzema had a fabulous opportunity to head the ball past ter Stegen after a perfect pass from Vezquez, but the Frenchman missed the target.
With the stoppage in play, Valverde brought on Nelson Semedo in place of Rafinha, resulting in Roberto moving further up the pitch. Ousmane Dembele was also getting ready to join play and he did so in the 73rd minute as he took Coutinho’s spot. The Frenchman was quickly involved as he featured prominently in a counter attack that ended with Barcelona doubling their lead in the 75th minute. Roberto seemed to miss the opportunity to find Suarez in the middle, but he nevertheless managed to do so and the Uruguayan brilliantly found the back of the net with a header.
Lopetegui then freshened up his attacking forces, bringing on Marco Asensio in place of the relatively quiet Gareth Bale. The visitors were quickly back on the attack, but Barcelona were able to fend them off. In the 82nd minute Marcelo was forced off with an injury and was replaced by attacker Mariano Diaz.
But it would matter little as Sergio Ramos would turn the ball over and Roberto would once again send Suarez into the danger area. One-on-one with the goalkeeper Suarez made no mistake, chipping the ball over Courtois for the commanding three goal lead. But the scoring would not stop there. Vidal joined play in place of Arthur immediately after the goal. In the 87th minute Dembele was sent down the left wing by Rakitić. The Frenchman effortlessly skipped past Nacho before sending a perfect cross in front where Vidal rose the highest to score his first Barcelona goal.
Just two minutes later Barcelona could’ve added another as Roberto yet again found Suarez inside the area. With the ball just a bit behind the Uruguayan, Suarez had to attempt an acrobatic shot and he did so brilliantly only to be denied by Courtois. Benzema would get the last chance of the game though, but even from an excellent spot the Frenchman couldn’t find the target.
White there were moments of panic early in the second half, Barcelona outmatched Real Madrid in this one, though the 5-1 score-line is a bit deceiving. Still, this game will go into the history books as one of those Barcelona fans will love to remember. Next up for the Catalans is the beginning of their Copa del Rey campaign.