FC Barcelona beat Real Madrid 1-0 in a much closer encounter than the Clásico we witnessed in mid-week. Below are some thoughts on what transpired. More match coverage and analysis will follow over the coming hours.
Notes On The First Half
- The game started off in a rather chaotic manner. Real Madrid looked to start off on the front foot with a high press and a multitude of players going in hard on Busquets. When combined with Barcelona’s spurts of counterpressing, the match was filled with fifty-duels that see-sawed the game back and forth, creating half chances for both sides.
- As the game settled, Madrid and Barca’s defensive structures started to become clear, and they weren’t good. Barcelona often seemed confused as to whether they wanted to press our not, creating vast spaces in-between their 4-4-2 block. When Madrid managed to progress into Barca’s half, the 4-4-2 often narrowed far too much and it became too easy to switch the point of the attack. Real Madrid seemed just as confused. There were numerous man orientations on Busquets — but none from Benzema — that warped Madrid’s compactness and always left a Barca CM free. Jordi Alba was also never man-marked properly, as Bale kept drifting inwards, often concerned with the passing lane to Dembélé.
- Barcelona were the first to capitalize on the opposition’s defensive weaknesses. In this instance, Madrid were slow to reorganize their shape and Ramos had to step up into midfield. Rakitić took advantage by running into the channel and chipping Courtois to score the opener.
- Madrid reacted decently, flooding men forward and trying to feed the ball into Vinícius as much as possible. Nevertheless, the only clean chance came from a Modrić header that sailed over the bar.
Notes On The Second Half
- Madrid started the first 10 minutes of the second half brightly. Benzema came to life and tried to make things happen on both ends. Vinícius kept at it and Madrid tried to find ways to loft passes into the box. Fortunately for Valverde, his defense generally held their nerve and blocked everything — even shots that came from poor giveaways in their own box.
- As the game trickled towards the hour mark, whatever tactical organization that existed for both sides started to drift away. Madrid began to rely even more heavily on individual initiation as Barca shrunk into a shell and tried to live off of counter-attacks. Soon, the game had devolved into end-to-end play with all collective mechanisms gone.
- By the 70th minute, the match seemed dead. Madrid were limited to shots from range as they ran out of ideas and Barcelona botched whatever transition attacks they managed to muster.
- There was a brief resurgence in energy in the final minutes, when Madrid players pressed desperately, but nothing came of it, and the game ended at 1-0.