Real Madrid win a wild one at the Camp Nou 1-3 (Pique OG, Ronaldo, Asensio; Messi), giving themselves a great cushion heading into the second leg of Supercopa. This match was filled with weird things, which we’ll break down in the coming hours. Here’s our immediate reaction — the bare bones. Still to come: player ratings, post-game podcast, and match review.
This Clasico had a strange, de-cultured feel to it to start. Nevermind that Neymar was gone, and Ronaldo was on the bench. Silky flicks and roulettes from Marcelo and Isco were met with ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ by Camp Nou tourists, surely rendering sincere Cules in a not-so-packed-to-the-brim stadium mad. (SPOILER: THINGS HEATED UP REALLY FAST).
The game was open. Real Madrid’s high-line visibly unnerved Barcelona trying to pass their way out of the back. Marcelo pinned Vidal. Kovacic, Kroos, and Varane were masterful in reading the passing lines and intercepting passes; and both teams came at each other in waves of attack, taking turns trying to break through in the final third.
Real Madrid did it slightly better, getting guided by a dominant Isco who, as has been the case when he starts in front of the midfield trio, was everwhere — providing outlets, dribbling through players, and controlling the tempo of the entire game. It was he who stood out for both sides.
Something I noted at half-time was that Gareth Bale was barely involved in the play. The reason for this was the scheme — one that is perfect for Isco to dictate, but for Bale (and in turn, Benzema) to be isolated as one of two central forwards. Bale is best suited as a two-way presence in a deeper role. He needs the ball. This was slightly remedied in the second half, when Bale shifted to the flanks and start playing in dangerous balls and making runs on the counter.
Bale, Benzema -- these are minor stories in a frenzied game. After Gerard Pique hilariously scored an own goal, Barcelona went on a menacing mission to score. They eventually did after earning a penalty — Luis Suarez making the most of minimal contact from Keylor Navas’ impediment. Messi’s goal from the spot to tie the game opened up a new dimension of controversy.
While Barcelona kept pushing, Real Madrid kept threatening on the counter attack, with plenty of space to take advantage of Barcelona’s back-peddling defenders. Isco, the architect of pretty well everything, set Ronaldo free against Pique one-on-one. While Bale sucked the defender on the far side, Pique was left with little coverage behind him, and Ronaldo decided to cut inside for a screaming far-post finish.
That made it 1-2, and Ronaldo followed it up with another goal which looked to be incorrectly ruled offside. Shortly after, he was sent off for a soft dive — one that most referees would’ve deemed a play that requires no whistle at all either way. Shortly after that? Asensio became the father of the Camp Nou by scoring a left-footed, near-post thunderbolt, which again, Pique (who was directly involved in all three goals conceded), couldn’t close down.
In short, Real Madrid went into the Camp Nou, deservedly won 1-3, and along the way, a bunch of things happened that made little-to-no-sense.
We’ll break this down further (tactics, referees and all) on our post-game podcast tonight.