FC Barcelona hosted bitter rivals Real Madrid in a La Liga edition of El Clasico on Sunday. Here’s the result, some player ratings, and what we learned from the tie.
FC Barcelona 2 – 1 Real Madrid
Roberto 45′ Araujo 9′ (OG)
Marc-Andre ter Stegen
Was tested early and responded well, but could do nothing about Araujo’s own goal. Didn’t have much to do for most of the rest of the match. 7
The youngster was caught out horribly by a diagonal ball that Karim Benzema and Dani Carvajal should have done more with halfway through the first half. Got in a good position to cross into the box near half time but Antonio Rudiger dealt with it. Like most Barca players, he was better in the second half but put Madrid on a dangerous move with awry passing. Redeemed himself, however, with the assist for Kessie’s winner. 7
Could have headed home a Raphinha cross from the left wing as Barca looked to equalize with around 25 minutes down, and almost became a hero with a cheeky inside heel effort from a corner at the half hour mark. Brilliant defensively in the second half and contained substitute Rodrygo. 8
Stopped a dangerous ball into the box as Madrid chased a second goal and his positioning was great to call Karim Benzema’s bluff on many a break. Cleaned up Araujo’s mess whenever Vinicius Jr caught him out. 7
Pushed Vinicius Jr wide on his first run down the left flank but then headed his cross past Ter Stegen to put Madrid ahead. Struggled more with the Brazilian than in previous meetings, but grew in the game while covered well by Kounde. 7
The captain was the first to give the ball away cheaply, which paved the way for an early Benzema chance, but settled down after that. Started the second half sloppily, dilly-dallying in his own penalty area, yet finished well. 7
Frenkie de Jong
The Dutchman’s distribution was off kilter compared to usual lofty standards to start with, but his second half wasn’t as bad. Fought to the death. 6
Silenced critics with the leveler practically on the half time whistle and almost set up Raphinha early in the second half. Took a yellow card for the team with a clever professional foul on Luka Modric which caused the ultras behind the net to chant his name. Made important interceptions and was great in Pedri’s more attacking midfield role. MAN OF THE MATCH – 9
Didn’t have much of a footballing impact on the proceedings in the first half but as always had plenty of fight in him. Started to thread passes together well, but couldn’t deliver anything near to his masterclass in January’s Spanish Super Cup final win. 6
Almost fired Barca’s first big chance into Thibaut Courtios’ top corner around three minutes in but was denied. Couldn’t get his shot off in the box when Madrid had gone ahead and yet again became anonymous. Woke up after the interval, but is still way off his ‘killer’ best despite coming close to hitting the winner on 75 minutes. Played an important role in Kessie’s winner. 6
Was alive and kicking pressing well and nearly headed past Courtois. After initially struggling with Eder Militao and Nacho, he made the Camp Nou roar through a wonderful bit of skill as his deliveries into the box gradually improved. Horribly missed a volley but then fired in the shot that was blocked yet paved the way for Roberto’s equalizer. Had a dangerous second half and was Barca’s main attacking menace brought off to great applause for Ferran Torres. 7
Roberto got the nod over the Ivorian but he has forever etched his name into Barca folklore with an injury time winner that was his team’s 3000th goal at Camp Nou in La Liga and could pretty much seal the title for them. 8
What We Learned
It is fair to say that FC Barcelona are now champions in-waiting, as it is difficult to see them squandering the 12 point lead they now have in the title race thanks to Franck Kessie.
Barca were rattled by Madrid’s shock opener but fought back and were clearly the better team in the second half.
On the verge of leading the Catalans to their first Spanish top flight crown in four years, Xavi will hope that his team doesn’t catch the dreaded ‘FIFA virus’ which will see them adding to their injury list over the international break.
After that, they will meet Los Blancos again in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals in the fifth and final Clasico of the season.
Though they lost to Carlo Ancelotti’s men in October, the Blaugrana should now be full of confidence after beating their arch enemies in their last three meetings.