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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 3 - 1 Barcelona, La Liga 2022 - 2023

AZ Alkmaar v Feyenoord - Dutch Eredivisie Photo by Angelo Blankespoor/Soccrates/Getty Images

Real Madrid 3 - 1 Barcelona (Benzema, Valverde, Rodrygo; Torres). Here’s our quick reaction upon the final whistle. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, post-game quotes, stats break down, and a ton more.

El Clasico came and went, almost to a tee, how it was supposed to from a tactical perspective. Barcelona like to have the ball and hold a high line. Real Madrid are one of, if not the best counter-attacking team on the planet.

And thus the game unfolded. Real Madrid allowed Barcelona’s center-backs to carry the ball up the field, and focused on cutting off the space that Pedri and Frenkie de Jong had. That worked for large stretches as Barcelona struggled to get the ball to their front three who tried to pin Real Madrid’s defenders but were also isolated.

In the 12th minute, Real Madrid hurt Barcelona where they were most vulnerable: in the half-space behind their defensive line. Toni Kroos, who had an absolute masterclass of a game, evaded a challenge and played a perfect ball to Vinicius. Benzema scored from the rebound:

Real Madrid looked relatively comfortable, and the energy and press-resistancy from the midfield was key. All four players (Fede Valverde, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Aurelien Tchouameni) could escape pressure, and they were all doing important defensive work.

Though, it wasn’t necessarily a dominant performance. Barcelona grew into the game and had good phases of play, and it usually came from Pedri taking it upon himself to break lines with his dribbling. Once he created space for himself he could get the ball to Barcelona’s front three in better positions. Robert Lewandowski missed an open net at the far post on the back of one of their better offensive sequences.

But through yet another dangerous transition attack, Real Madrid doubled their lead, as Fede Valverde pounced at the top of the box:

Real Madrid were hoping that in the second half Barcelona’s defense would open up even more, but there wasn’t really a high volume of chances in transition, and Vinicius Jr was relatively quiet in that sense. Real Madrid continued to work hard defensively and progress the ball up the field through, mostly, Kroos and Modric brilliance. They nearly made it 3 - 0 off a good attacking sequence, but Benzema’s goal was ruled offside.

Barcelona pulled one back through Ferran Torres, who was free at the far post after Ansu Fati dribbled past Fede on the opposite flank:

Barcelona nearly equalized shortly after, but Real Madrid held on, and Rodrygo Goes converted a penalty before the final whistle to make it 3 - 1.

These are just the bare bones. There was a lot to break down in this game which we’ll do in both written and podcast form in the coming hours.

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