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Highlights from the First El Clasico of the Season

In football, as in every other sport, memories, statures and success are ephemeral. Change is the only constant, and Spanish football knows it quite well, for things have changed a lot in the last few years.

The global icons like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos no longer play their trade in Spain. The Spanish powerhouses, who once dominated any and every opposition across the continent, witnessed their superpowers getting stripped off.

Financial difficulties crept in – not quietly, but by sparking a worldwide hullabaloo. When Real Madrid visited Camp Nou to take on Barcelona in the first El Clasico of the season, it was not a clash of top two teams of the points table, like the yesteryears.

But in this otherwise transient sport, rivalries are perpetual. Hence, despite both teams going through a difficult phase, the enigma, excitement and thrill were the same as ever before – for this is a match where three points is perhaps the secondary thing at stake, with pride and bragging rights being primary.

More than 85,000 supporters flocked Camp Neu, but Barcelona were not the favourites for this match. They had won only four of their eight matches before this clash. Real Madrid did justice to their ‘favourites’ tag by securing a 2-1 victory, courtesy of goals from David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez. This win helped Los Blancos to climb to the second position, while Barcelona have dropped down to the ninth place.

Let us have a look at the highlights from that match:

 

Hosts miss the ‘Dest’ chance of the match

Despite not having momentum and form to act as a spring in their steps, Barcelona started off brightly. They were clearly the better side in the first phase, and it seemed as if Real Madrid were not fully prepared for what was coming their way.

But while a decent team creates chances, what separates them from the great sides is the ability to make the chances count. The best chance of the match came in the 25th minute, where a cheeky cutback from Memphis Depay found American full-back Sergino Dest, now playing as a winger, one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Had he converted the chance, the story of the match could have been different, but Dest incredibly managed to sky the ball, with the goal gaping.

 

Swift Real Madrid pounces on Barcelona’s lapses of concentration

A few minutes after he created the brilliant opportunity for Dest, Dutch attacker Memphis Depay started another attack, albeit for the opposition this time. He was dispossessed by David Alaba, which led to a textbook counter-attack by Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

Nifty footwork from Vinicius Junior helped him get past Oscar Mingueza and thread a pass to Rodrygo, who then found David Alaba in acres of space down the left-wing. The Switzerland international had time and space on his side, but it still needed an accurate shot to give Real Madrid a 1-0 lead. Just four minutes later, Barcelona had the chance to get an equalizer. A pinpoint corner found Gerard Pique unmarked, but his header was a few inches wide.

 

Koeman’s team lacks the Barca DNA

The inclusion of Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho injected some urgency and pace in Barcelona’s game-play in the second half, but it soon became evident that the team is desperately crying out for some creativity.

Midfield duo of Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong rarely linked up with the frontmen, who themselves looked out of sorts. Had it not been for the colours they were wearing and the stadium this match was held in, it would have been tough to figure out that Barcelona were playing.

The Blaugranas are known for their Tiki Taka way of football, involving crisp passing and clever movement. However, they relied on long balls in this match, almost all of which were unproductive.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, knew very well that they do not need to go all guns blazing, having secured the lead. Ancelotti’s men sat back for the majority of the game, and the combined result was a rather boring last thirty minutes.

Another counter-attack move gave Real Madrid the second goal in the dying minutes of the match. Marco Asensio’s shot called Marc-Andre ter Stegen to action, and while the German custodian did well to parry the shot away, the rebound was tucked in by Lucas Vazquez.

Sergio Aguero provided some sort of consolation for the agitated home fans by netting a 97th-minute goal, but it simply had no consequence on the result of the match. Though not particularly pleasing in their stay of play, Real Madrid will cherish the three points, which helped them close the gap with league leaders Real Sociedad.

Barcelona, and their manager Ronald Koeman in particular, have a lot of answering to do. The decision to play Ansu Fati as the centre-forward did not work, and the decision to not bring on striker Luuk de Jong even while trailing is something not many could comprehend. Barcelona need answers, and they need it soon, for ninth place is not where their fans want them to see.

 

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