There is a habit in the media around the world to build up big games to unrealistic expectations. However, one big game that usually delivers on its hype is El Clasico and Saturday night’s edition certainly didn’t disappoint. The game had absolutely everything, Real Madrid came out on top 2-1 at the Alfredo di Stefano in rain-sodden Madrid.
A game of two halves
The old cliché of football being a game of two halves certainly applies to Saturday’s clash of the titans. Despite Barcelona dominating the ball in the first half, it was Real Madrid that established a two-goal lead. Karim Benzema scored a superb back-heel from a Lucas Vasquez cross to open the scoring. The second half a huge slice of luck, as Toni Kroos free-kick took a deflection off both Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba before beating Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
Barcelona struggled to cope with the home sides counter-attacks. It was obvious that the system that Ronald Koeman’s team was using had a flaw that Zinedine Zidane’s team had the ability and know-how to exploit.
A half-time switch to more of a 4-4-3 was the obvious one, as the Catalan giants looked much more comfortable with the system. They continued to dominate possession and scored a goal early in the second half, as makeshift right-back Oscar Mingueza shinned home a Jordi Alba cross.
While Real Madrid still possessed a dangerous counter-attacking threat, Barcelona seemed more likely to score the fourth goal, especially after both Benzema and Vinicius Junior exited the pitch. In a dramatic last few minutes of action, Los Blancos midfielder Carlo Casemiro received a red card.
There was more drama to come, though, as a goalmouth scramble with the last kick of the game saw young Barcelona midfielder Ilaix Moriba smashed a volley against the bar. Los Blancos hung on for what could be a massive win in the fight for the La Liga title.
Title race now wide open
A few months ago, Atletico Madrid looked like Spanish champions-elect. They were relentless with veteran striker Luis Suarez scoring for fun. Now, though, Real Madrid are top of the table, with Atletico facing a potentially difficult trip to Real Betis later today. If Los Rojiblancos fails to win in Seville, then Real Madrid will be big favourites to retain their crown.
However, as things stand the race for the Spanish top-flight title is wide open. All of the top three are within touching distance of each other. Real Madrid now have excellent momentum, while it will interesting to see how Barcelona respond to the defeat in the Spanish capital. A win for Atletico Madrid will put move three points clear of their city rivals and four ahead of Barcelona.
As usual, the result from El Clasico would well have a big bearing on the destination of the Spanish top-flight title. The race for La Liga is far from over and the rest of the campaign promises to be a fascinating watch.
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