Sunday , June 16 2024

A Real raid at the Camp Nou

Barcelona’s 39-match winning streak came to a crashing halt as Real Madrid walked out of the Camp Nou with a 2-1 victory on Saturday night in El Clásico.

Gerard Piqué headed home in the 56th minute to hand Barcelona the lead, but Real answered back six minutes later through Karim Benzema before Ronaldo scored the winner five minutes from time to give Real the momentous victory. It was Barcelona’s first defeat since a 2-1 loss to Sevilla back on October 3rd.

There was a special feeling in the air pre-match with the Camp Nou paying tribute beautifully to the late Johan Cruyff, the former Barcelona player and manager who passed away last week.

With the niceties concluded, Barcelona started on the front foot and had the bulk of possession. The home side could have jumped out to an early lead, but somehow Luis Suárez contrived to completely whiff a shot with the goalmouth gaping wide following a superb cross from Neymar.

Lionel Messi was a bit late in getting into the game and didn’t have his first look on goal until the 19th minute when a he curled a free kick over Keylor Navas’ crossbar. That was followed by a sizzling shot from Rakitic which forced Navas into a diving save.

A rather subdued Camp Nou found its voice midway through the first half when Messi went down on the edge of the area after what looked like a foul from Sergio Ramos, but the referee waived for play to continue. The hosts were outraged, and the visitors relieved as Ramos was already on a yellow.

As play continued, Real carved out their first chances of the match, with Ronaldo and Gareth Bale getting looks at goal, but Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was largely untroubled by both efforts.

It was apparent by the half hour mark that Barcelona were dealing with a far more formidable Real Madrid than the one that capitulated 4-0 last November at the Santiago Bernabéu. The presence of Casemiro and Pepe gave Real a hard-edge and made life difficult for Barcelona’s attacking forces.

Up front, Zinedine Zidane’s men continued to grow into the game, and just minutes before half-time Benzema was presented with a golden opportunity to give Real a lead. But the Frenchman sent his shot to the heavens to ensure a scoreless first half in a Clásico at the Camp Nou for the first time since 2009.

Ramos continued his yellow card balancing act into the second half with a takedown of Suárez, but the Andalusian again avoided the sending off. It only added to the contentious nature of the contest, but Real were undaunted and a long-range effort from Modric was almost cheekily redirected in by Bale.

Back and forth the two sides went as Navas was called into action to bat away a Messi shot floated toward the upper right corner. However, moments later there was nothing that the Costa Rican could do to stop a thumping header from Piqué off a corner kick. Improbably, the team that hardly ever scores from a corner kick did just that to take a 1-0 lead against their biggest rival.

Real showed their mettle though, and minutes after Piqué’s opener, Benzema drew the capital club level 1-1 with an overhead kick off a Kroos pass after Marcelo had done extremely well down the right side to create the chance.

Real smelled blood, as they went hunting for the winner and thought they had it 10 minutes from time on a Bale header, but the Welshman was whistled for fouling Alba on the play, a call that will surely be a conversation topic for days to come across the country.

Zidane urged his men on, and a Ronaldo effort went close, with the ball nicking the top of the crossbar. At the other end Ramos was issued a second yellow for a foul on Suárez, but it didn’t matter to Ronaldo and Real, and moments later the Portuguese fired in the winner when he collected a lofted ball across from Bale, slid past Alves and rocketed in a shot past Bravo to put Real ahead for good 2-1.

Barcelona had one last look at an equaliser, but substitute Arda Turan’s shot was blocked by Casemiro, capping off a superb performance from the visitors.

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