Real Madrid lose El Clasico 0-3 (Suarez, Messi, Vidal) in a nightmarish way. Here’s our quick reaction to this horror-show. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, tactical review, and final takeaways.
This is one of those reactions that are near impossible to type. The fan in me has creeped up from my veins and into my fingers — boiling my blood and hindering me from writing something professional. What started off as a respectable performance, transpired into a shocking display of insane decision-making and vulnerability.
Mateo Kovacic started in the slot Isco was expected to. With Modric, Casemiro, and Kroos surrounding him, it was a sound decision from Zidane. The team looked solid defensively, dealt with Barcelona’s attacks well, and even in moments where they switched off, they were able to recover in time and close down Barcelona’s players in the final third.
The problems arrived on the offensive end. Beyond Barcelona’s press there was plenty of space to exploit, but Real Madrid laboured in transition. Ronaldo and Benzema were inefficient on the counter-attack, and Toni Kroos found himself in positions high up the left flank where he needed to beat a man and create something. As we’ve discussed before, this just isn’t his game, and this is where the absence of a Bale / Asensio / Isco was apparent.
In the second half, the horror-show began. Zidane kept the same scheme, but somehow everything unravelled. The defensive compactness was non existent. Barcelona started to control possession, retain possession high up the pitch, and Real Madrid all of a sudden were completely incapable of making a pass out of the back. They gave the ball away constantly, and eventually conceded. Barcelona scored a deserved goal — Ivan Rakitic strolled up the pitch with no one pressuring him. It seemed like Kovacic was preoccupied marking Messi and no one to help him cover Rakitic. I’d have to go back and see the replay to fully dissect it, but it was a disaster of a defensive sequence.
Real Madrid looked all kinds of vulnerable at that point. On an ensuing counter, Barcelona were in the box again, and after a few chaotic bounces, Carvajal tried to prevent a clear-cut goal by handling the ball. Red card. Messi made it 0-2, and it was an impossible situation.
Zidane reacted by bringing on Nacho for Benzema. Meanwhile, Bale and Asensio, who were warmed up and ready to come on, stood there at the half way line for what seemed like aeons. Barcelona casually passed the ball around for minutes on end without being pressured, and it took forever for the ball to go out of play and the subs to roll in.
Once Bale and Asensio entered, Real Madrid looked better, even with 10-men. Alas, the reaction was far too late, and the damage was already done.