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Immediate Reaction (UWCL Quarter-Finals, 2nd Leg): FC Barcelona 5 - 2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid created reasons to hope before Barcelona crushed their opponent’s spirit.

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid: Quarter Final Second Leg - UEFA Women’s Champions League Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 5-2 in front of a record-breaking crowd for a women’s football match. The atmosphere from the Camp Nou was palpable — even when experienced from a screen — and both teams delivered in one of the most classic games in UEFA Women’s Champions League history.

With this victory, Barca move onto the semi-finals to continue defending their crown while Madrid bow out in their competition debut.

Below are my immediate thoughts on the match. A piece on the key players from the game and a post-match podcast will follow.

  • Barcelona began in totally dominant fashion, trapping Real Madrid in their own half for the first 6-7 minutes through sound rest defense and a relentless counterpress. Against Madrid’s first high-pressing sequence, Barcelona instantly played the ball in behind to Caroline Graham Hansen, leading to an excellent box entry that Babett Peter only just cleared.
  • Barça’s prominence in the final third led to quick results. Misa made a massive mistake on an overhit cross from Mapi León, giving the home side the lead. Misa is highly rated as a shot-stopper and sweeper but can be vulnerable to lofted deliveries, being a culprit on the penalty incident from the first leg.
  • In maybe their first foray forward, Madrid got some fortune to go their way. Olga Carmona did brilliantly to create space for a speculative shot and clearly struck Irene Paredes on the arm. Olga then converted from the spot to level the contest against the run of play.
  • Barcelona immediately settled back into their rhythm, seriously testing somewhat timid pressure from Madrid with dynamic movements from the midfield and slick passing into pockets between the lines. As a result, they were able to progress to danger zones outside the box fairly easily, sometimes doing so in semi-transition, such as when Hansen was played through from a sweeping ground-switch, giving her a 1v1 from a very wide angle that she fired over.
  • The second goal was starting to look inevitable until Real Madrid started to develop intelligent solutions in possession. Although the long ball into Esther was overused, there were moments when clipping a pass into her dropping run worked. Cushioning lofted balls into Svava as Barca started their press narrow was more successful, as was finding Athenea down the line after circulation from the far side and Lucía dribbling out. Late in the first half, Toril asked his double pivot to split wide on a goal kick, allowing Zornoza to escape the cover shadow and produce Madrid’s clearest entry into the opposition half till date.
  • The restart got extremely wild extremely fast. Out of nowhere, Zornoza kicked things off with a ridiculous strike from 40 yards out.
  • In the 52nd minute, a long goal kick and a set of fifty-fifties in midfield set Aitana on her way. Ivana was unable to square her hips and get in position to contest the shot, and Aitana powered a drive past Misa.
  • Then, Pina struck from a difficult angle as Madrid backpedalled in semi-transition, having been outdone by a switch of play.
  • The game devolved into end-to-end chaos through these goals and in the action that followed. Madrid’s initial goal gave them the confidence, which soon turned to desperation as Barca responded with body blows. The resulting, frantic press and forays forward allowed the Catalan outfit to find more space than they could previously.
  • But it was in a more settled sequence that Barcelona completely finished off the tie. Alexia Putellas manipulated Ivana’s aggressive tendencies, faking like she would receive to feet before timing her movement in behind perfectly. Misa should’ve done much better on the shot, which could be said on two of the three previous goals she had conceded up until that point. It was an uncharacteristically poor performance for her and it looked like the opener rattled the 22-year-old.
  • Barcelona kept the punishment coming and a 1v1 move from Rolfö led to an out-of-control backheel pass that fell straight to Hansen.
  • Prior to the goal, Toril had wisely called it quits and subbed off Olga for Møller and Esther for Nahikari. After the goal, Madrid’s coach removed Babs for Rocío and Svava for Kenti. Meanwhile, Barcelona rested Patri, Torrejón, and Jenni for Engen, Crnogorčević, and Leila, respectively. Melanie Serrano later came on for Claudia Pina.
  • The game wound down firmly on the terms of the best team in the world aside from one moment in the 85th. Madrid got their first breakaway in ages and Møller found free space, blasting a good chance over the bar from the left-hand side of the box.
  • Madrid closed out the match with Claudia Florentino on for Teresa Abelleira and with Barca continuing their assault on the box. It was a dispiriting ending to an epic contest, but Las Blancas proved a lot over the two legs, putting the result into question for a significant period of time.