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Immediate Reaction: Barcelona 2 - 2 Real Madrid

Barcelona’s unbeaten run in La Liga continues, amid a heated and controversial Clasico

Barcelona v Real Madrid - La Liga Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Real Madrid draw Barcelona 2-2 (Ronaldo, Bale; Suarez, Messi) at the Camp Nou in the final Clasico of the season. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.

There was nothing at stake but pride, yet this Clasico — not unlike previous ones — had you out of the edge of your seat for every second of it. Not a moment fleeted without some heat — a bone-crunching challenge, a face-to-face clash, a red card, a should’ve-been-but-wasn’t red card, non-calls, game-altering bad challenges, and so forth. This Clasico was heated and heavy.

Let’s jump right into the bullet points

  • Zidane decided, perhaps surprisingly, to start with the BBC trio in a 4-3-3 scheme. It looked good, both early on and throughout. The press and movement from the front-three was generally good, and all three of them were dangerous on the counter-attack. Bale’s work defensively on the flank also freed up Modric to hedge in centrally and be relieved a bit so that he can pull strings. Real Madrid started well, and had a really good first half. Their issue wasn’t so much their press or their build-up, but rather their high line. More than once, Zidane’s men were punished, particularly on the left-hand side, with long passes and runs in-behind the defense. That’s where Barcelona’s opening goal eventually came from.
  • It’s not unusual that Real Madrid concede first in the Camp Nou then make a comeback, so it was no surprise that Zidane’s men kept their composure and continued to attack with confidence. The equalizer came when Toni Kroos took a brilliant touch in midfield to give himself a bunch of space on the counter-attack. He then combined with Ronaldo and Benzema; and Cristiano met a low-pass across the box. Afterwards, he had a few more chances to give Real Madrid the lead but couldn’t — even though two of his chances were clear-cut. The Portuguese was taken off at half-time for a knock he took. Hopefully it was just a precaution.
  • Somewhere in the first half, amid all those Real Madrid chances and dominance, Sergio Ramos yelled at Luis Suarez (quite satisfying, really) for going down easily. That’s when things went ballistic. What ensued, was Lionel Messi, with full intent, to send a message to Sergio or whatever, fouling Real Madrid’s captain on a follow through, then yelling at him. Just before half-time, Sergi Roberto retaliated to a Marcelo scuffle by hitting him in the face, and was given a direct red card. At half-time, the players continued to jaw at each other in the tunnel.
  • To be sure, the immediate response in the second half was somewhat disappointing, but also unfortunately out of control in a way. Barcelona took the lead again, through a really nice Lionel Messi finish — but on a play that should’ve been called back for a foul:
  • Real Madrid continued to attack. At times it looked disjointed — Asensio and Marcelo passing it back and forth without real chemistry on the left hand side (it looked a bit better when Asensio shifted over to the right), and Gareth Bale making cutting runs without being found. But the Welshman came good for the equalizer with an absolute laser, and his hard work paid off:
  • The game went back-and-forth from there, with Real Madrid being the more dangerous of the two sides. Marcelo should’ve had a penalty for a clear foul from Jordi Alba. Alas, Barcelona’s unbeaten run continues. They just keep grinding it out, someway, somehow.
  • Shoutouts: Casemiro put in one of his best performances of the season. He had a ton of important interventions defensively in transition. He won the ball seven times, and have two interceptions.
  • Karim Benzema strings together another really good game, despite not scoring, and his four key passes were one of the main sources of Real Madrid’s attack.
  • Toni Kroos started off a bit leg-heavy, but rounded out a nice game acting as the team’s funnel in possession.
  • This was not a bad performance, nor was it other-worldly. Certain obvious things went against the team, and there’s nothing really to be upset about regarding the team’s performance other than that.
  • Podcast coming your way in a couple hours.

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