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Real Madrid vs Barcelona, La Liga: Final Score 2-1, Awful first half costs Barça in El Clásico

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A huge setback in the title race.

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

In one of the biggest El Clásico matches in recent memory, Barcelona decided to not show up for 45 minutes and were punished with a 2-1 loss away to Real Madrid at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano. Barça were awful in the first half and conceded two goals, and despite a better second period the Blaugrana could only score once and have now dropped to third in the table after their first La Liga loss in 20 matches.

FIRST HALF

The first was half was an abomination from Barça, who had two thirds of the possession but did absolutely nothing with it, while somehow leaving a three-man defense completely wide open against the quick Madrid frontline. The home team were lethal from the start, exploiting all the space left by Barça and creating really good chances.

Karim Benzema scored the first with a cheeky backheel and Toni Kroos made it 2-0 with a free-kick, but Madrid could have easily made it three or four if not for the post and Marc-André ter Stegen. Barça created nothing in the half, and their best moment came when Lionel Messi took a direct corner and hit the post.

At halftime the Blaugrana were embarrassing to watch, and needed a miracle to get even a point from the game.

SECOND HALF

Ronald Koeman made a halftime substitution with Antoine Griezmann replacing Sergiño Dest, which also meant a change of formation as Barça went to a back four, had more numbers in midfield and one more attacker up front.

Koeman’s plan worked as Barça became more dangerous, and Madrid decided to sit deeper and soak up pressure to try and kill the game on the counter. Barça scored quickly as Óscar Mingueza was at the end of a cross from Jordi Alba to make it 2-1, and the Blaugrana had 30 minutes to find an equalizer.

More attacking players came on and the visitors increased the pressure, but they couldn’t create any clear-cut opportunities and the game started to get away from them. There was a hugely controversial moment when Ferland Mendy pulled Martin Braithwaite’s arm inside the box, but both the referee and VAR felt there was no penalty.

Madrid had to play the period of injury with 10 men after Casemiro received two yellow cards in a space of two minutes, but there was not enough time for Barça to take advantage of being a man up, and the final whistle came to give Madrid the win.

Barça will complain about the penalty but they’re architects of their own downfall. They’ve lost El Clásico because of the first half. Simple as that.


R. Madrid: Courtois; Vázquez (Odriozola 43’), Militão, Nacho, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos (Isco 73’); Valverde (Asensio 61’), Benzema (Mariano 73’), Vinicius (Marcelo 73’)

Goals: Benzema (13’), Kroos (28’)

Red Card: Casemiro (90’)

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Mingueza, Araujo (Moriba 72’), Lenglet; Dest (Griezmann 46’), De Jong, Busquets (Roberto 64’), Alba; Messi, Dembélé (Braithwaite 81’), Pedri (Trincão 81’)

Goal: Mingueza (60’)