Barcelona Women remain perfect this season and will take a lead into next week’s Women’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg thanks to a hard-fought 3-1 first leg win over Real Madrid at the Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium. Barça were far from their best and faced a very competitive Madrid side, but Femení eventually showed their superiority in the second half and found the winning goals to give themselves a chance to finish the job in front of a packed Camp Nou next Wednesday.
Barça were quite simply unrecognizable in the first half, playing the worst 45 minutes of their season so far. A lot of their poor play had to do with a great Real Madrid team that came out with amazing intensity and suffocating pressure without the ball, and they were very dangerous whenever they had the ball.
Perhaps because of complacency and arrogance, Barça were caught off guard by Madrid’s performance and couldn’t play their usual football. They kept missing easy passes and never threatened in possession, and their defense was an absolute mess: Madrid got everything they wanted, and scored an early goal through Olga Carmona that was a sign of things to come.
Esther González, Madrid’s best player, was unplayable and had two huge chances towards the end of the half, hitting the post from a short distance and forcing a big save out of Sandra Paños. Madrid could have easily scored two or three in the first half, and they were visibly to not have found the net more than once.
At halftime, a very poor Barça team was deservedly behind and needed to play a lot better to have any shot in the second half.
Barça didn’t start the second half well and they continued to show the same problems from the first half, but they got a huge slice of luck in the form of a penalty given by VAR after Caroline Graham Hansen was kicked in the box by Olga. There wasn’t much in it and the decision was harsh, but Alexia Putellas stepped up to the spot anyway and scored a very good penalty to equalize.
Femení started to dominate possession more and as time went on Madrid couldn’t keep up the same intensity, looking more and more tired and leaving more spaces at the back. Still, Barça remained very wasteful and kept sending bad crosses into the box, and they never created a real chance to go ahead as we reached the final 10 minutes.
But this Barça team is relentless, and they were not going home without a victory: with nine minutes left, after Aitana Bonmatí’s shot was blocked inside the box, Claudia Pina was first to the rebound and found the bottom corner to put the away team in front.
Madrid went forward in the dying moments looking for a late equalizer, but couldn’t find a way past Sandra Paños and conceded a third goal on the counter attack when Patri Guijarro found Alexia all alone, and the world’s best player chipped the keeper to make it 3-1 at the death.
The final whistle came to give Barça the win and a comfortable advantage going into the second leg. They didn’t play nearly as well as they have all season, but knockout football is all about the wins and Barça got it. Now they come home to Camp Nou in front of 90,000 fans, with a chance to show how good they really are and book a place in the semi-final. Is it Wednesday yet?
Real Madrid: Misa; Lucía (Robles 78’), Peter, Rocío (Ivana 66’), Svava; Teresa, Zornoza; Athenea, Maite (Nahikari 78’), Olga (Moller 66’); Esther
Goal: Olga (8’)
Barcelona: Paños; Marta, Pereira (Paredes 65’), Mapi, Leila (Pina 46’); Aitana (Engen 85’), Patri, Alexia; Graham, Hermoso, Rolfö
Goals: Alexia (pen 53’, 90+4’), Pina (81’)