El Clasico Recap!
It’s been an astonishing eleven years since messers Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t feature in an El Clasico lineup but without either of the two mega stars featuring, you’d think there would be a lack of drama and excitement? Think again.
To put that stat into context, only one player from the 28 to feature on that day just before Christmas 2007 featured at the weekend, one Sergio Ramos. Los Blancos went onto win that game 1-0 thanks to a Julio “The Beast” Baptista goal.
But this time around it was Luis Suarez who played the role of “The Beast” for his side, grabbing a magnificent excellent hat-trick in a 5-1 demolition of their arch nemesis. Samba star Phillippe Coutinho opened the scoring after just 11 minutes and substitute Arturo Vidal rounded off the victory in the 87th minute to put the icing on the cake in a game were the result was maybe a little flattering to the Blaugrana.
The game as a contest could have been put to bed in the first half alone but as comfortable as the first half was for the home side, in which they raced to a two goal lead thanks to Coutinho’s cool finish from a 32 pass move and Luis Suarez VAR assisted penalty, the second half could have been any score. Julen Lopetegui, to his credit, switched to a 3-4-3 to overload the flanks in an almost no-lose situation. Yes, Real Madrid were atrocious in the first half, looking devoid of any understanding of a game plan or strategy. But a new side emerged from the tunnel, immediately pressing high and committing more men forward to claw their way back into the game.
Marcelo pulled one back as Barca looked a little shell shocked with the tweak in formation that began to smother their play, and really should have equalized through Luka Modric hitting the post and Karim Benzema’s poorly finished header. Ernesto Valverde’s side regained some composure and looked to their bench. On came Nelson Semedo and Ousmane Dembele, moves that saw the unsung hero of the afternoon, Sergi Roberto to right midfield and with Dembele’s dribbling ability and pace saw Barca regain a foothold. Utility man Sergi Roberto fired a cross in Luis Suarez direction, and the Uruguayan showed incredible reactions and neck strength to twist and direct the header straight past the helpless Thibault Courtois.
Barca sensed blood and just seven minutes later the knockout blow arrived. Sergi Roberto battled with Sergio Ramos and released Suarez down the insight right challenge and finished with the cheekiest of dinked finishes over Courtois to make it 4-1. With the Camp Nou still celebrating wildly and chants of ““Whoever doesn’t bounce is a Madridista!” ringing around the iconic stadium, their joyousness to outright delirium when Dembele dribbled down the left wing and stood up a cross to fellow sub Vidal who powered his header home.
The fallout from such a demolition inevitably saw Lopetegui lose his job, who by all accounts was a dead man walking from the dreadful results and performances leading up to El Clasico, a result that sees Real Madrid languishing in ninth while Barca soared back to the top of the table.