Crisis? What crisis? Real Madrid clinched their first La Liga win away at Camp Nou since April 2016, as Zinedine Zidane’s side shook off back-to-back defeats in the past week to beat Barcelona 3-1.
The Frenchman went with his strongest side possible, as there were more surprises in the Barcelona starting XI, with teenagers Ansu Fati and Pedri starting up front with Lionel Messi instead of Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele.
The early possession was all Madrid’s, and it produced an early goal. Within the opening five minutes, Federico Valverde slipped through Sergio Busquets marking into the vacated space behind Gerard Pique. Karim Benzema picked him out, and the Uruguayan buried it into the top corner.
But with Madrid looking on the up, Vinicius Junior was through and failed to hit the target with his half-chance, and that was soon punished by the hosts. Messi flicked a pass over Nacho Fernandez to pick out the run of Jordi Alba, who flashed across goal for Ansu Fati to equalise. An error for Raphael Varane, who was the only member of the back four who didn’t step up for the offside trap.
Messi then had a chance to end his 460 minute Clasico scoring drought, but once he had spun Sergio Ramos, his right footed shot was superbly kept out by Thibaut Courtois. And moments later, Madrid could have capitalised, as Toni Kroos passed to Benzema, who missed a sitter, instead hitting a shot straight at Neto, not either side of Barcelona’s goalkeeper.
The second half started brighter for the visitors, who were pressing better, but then fell into a period of complacency in possession. Ansu saw an angle, and his shot just flashed past the far post. Philippe Coutinho was then teed up by Ansu with a cross to the back post, but the Brazilian forward headed into the side netting, when he should have hit the target.
On the hour mark, the game was turned on its head. From a Kroos free-kick, Ramos had his shirt tugged by Clement Lenglet in the box, and upon consultation with VAR, the referee concluded it’s a penalty. Ramos stepped up, and tucked it away to give Madrid the lead.
You would have thought Barcelona would come out of the traps to get an equaliser, but Madrid held firm in their pursuit of three points. Kroos had a huge double chance to bury Barcelona, but the German’s first time shot and the rebound were both saved heroically by Neto.
Then the keeper kept Barca in the game once more moments later. Vazquez again crosses, this time for Ramos at the far post, who’s volley was saved by Neto at close-range. As good as Neto was in the previous five minutes, he was left embarrassed by Luka Modric for the clinching goal.
The Croatian weaving in and out, leaving Neto’s attempts at clutching the ball in vain, with the Croatian slotting the ball into an empty net to complete a magnificent performance by the champions. After the week they’ve had, this result will serve as a massive confidence boost for Madrid, and for Zidane.
Up next for Real Madrid?
Who? Borussia Mönchengladbach
When? Tuesday 27th October 2020 @ 21:00 (CET)