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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona

What a win.

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona (Benzema, Kroos). Two brilliant wins within days... Here is the reaction to the Clásico. Still to come: The player ratings, press conferences, and the great ManagingMadrid podcast.

After the surprisingly comfortable 3-1 win over Liverpool in the Champions League midweek, attentions had turned to the biggest league game of the season so far. El Clásico provided a huge chance for Madrid to take a temporary lead in La Liga, with a view of securing that top spot in the near future. The team was similar to the Liverpool line-up, with the main change being Fede Valverde brought in to allow Marco Asensio some rest ahead of the second leg. The bench contained plenty of names that might look to seize an opportunity on the big stage in light of fixtures to come. Players such as Sergio Ramos and Eden Hazard remained unavailable for selection.

It didn’t feel like your typical Clásico during the opening segment. Both teams looked to apply pressure when out of possession, but decisions on where and when to press were questionable. This seemed to play into Madrid’s hands though, as Barcelona looked to strike first - but allowed Los Blancos far too much space and time to counter quickly. This allowed Fede Valverde to burst forward and hand the ball to Lucas Vázquez in a shocking amount of space. The fill-in right-back did manage to pick Karim Benzema out inside the box, but in order to score a goal from that position it was going to take some serious wizardry. Fortunately, Karim Benzema is in the form of his life - and did not hesitate to immediately flick the ball past Marc-André Ter Stegen to open the scoring. That was the turning point for Madrid, who still were behind in possession statistics, but used the ball so much more effectively and looked a real danger with every attack. It was easy to forget how much possession Barcelona actually had, as they lacked any real conviction or ideas. After the despairingly unlucky Mohamed Salah goal conceded midweek, it was time for Madrid to ride some luck of their own. Toni Kroos was to take a free-kick right on the edge of the area, and although he hit it goal bound - deflections off of two heads (Sergiño Dest and Jordi Alba) managed to take the tame strike off course and into the goal for two. Ferland Mendy was then fortunate to not concede a penalty, but Barcelona found some luck of their own as Fede Valverde could only hit the post after a lot of time was afforded to him on the counter. Ter Stegen made a world class save to deny Karim Benzema on the rebound, but it still should have been three for the hosts. Madrid continued to attack, but efforts from Luka Modrić and Karim Benzema could not extend the lead before half time.

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander
Swish and flick.
Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

The rain started to really hammer down at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano, giving fans hope that the second half might be just as chaotic and eventful as the first. Play got off to a slower start, but things picked up when Antoine Griezmann missed the target from very close range. Benzema was the next player to miss only seconds later at the other end, spraying a shot over after another dangerous counter. Things then took a turn as Barcelona pulled a goal back through Óscar Mingueza’s shin on the hour mark. The post was on hand to save the visitors once again as a deflected Vinícius Júnior cross smacked the outside of the frame. Thibaut Courtois then denied Jordi Alba from equalising, and before I could catch my breathe - Vinícius was through and just unable to find Benzema to calm the nerves. The next huge chance fell to Madrid, as Toni Kroos missed from yards out due to his hexagon shaped head. Marco Asensio, Mariano Díaz, Isco and Marcelo were introduced, as Madrid wanted to slow things down. This attempt was not so successful though, as Alba hit the ball wide of the target again before Martin Braithwaite dived in the area, fooling nobody but the Barcelona bench. Casemiro received a second yellow card right at the death for a late challenge, but Real Madrid were able to compose themselves and see out the final minutes and assure the 2-1 win (but not after one last exasperating miss by Marcelo).

This win puts Madrid at the top of La Liga. Main challengers Atlético Madrid still have a game in hand, but their form has been anything but impressive recently. Real Madrid can now prepare for another challenge on Wednesday, as they travel to England for the second leg to hopefully confirm their place in the Champions League semi-finals. What a week it has been so far for the club, with huge wins in both the Champions League and La Liga to put themselves in a very satisfying position ahead of the final stretch of the year. It was one of the stranger Clásico’s I have witnessed as a Real Madrid fan, but also one of the most entertaining. It made writing this immediate reaction the most intense experience due to constant anxiety that something was about to change the course of the game massively at any moment. What did you guys think about this colossal performance?

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