Real Madrid’s greatest ever goal-scorer was in the Box seat of the Bernabéu tonight. On a rainy, cold night in Madrid, Vinicius Jr. left Gerard Pique on the floor like a wooden log, then he scored and celebrated like Cristiano Ronaldo. Oh, good lord, the scenes! This was on the 71st minute and Real Madrid held their nerves this time to complete an emphatic 2-0 win over Barcelona, thanks to Mariano’s stoppage-time goal. Real Madrid have climbed back to the top of the La Liga table after beating Barcelona for the first time in six years of premier division football at the Bernabéu. Here’s how this magical night unfolded:
One can never guess Zidane’s starting line-ups and the trend continued tonight. He started with Marcelo and the gamble paid off nicely in the end. Real Madrid enjoyed possession in the opening minute and won a corner really early in the game but Barcelona dealt with it quite easily. The Blaugranas started the game in their typical fashion with lots of back-passes to ensure possession. Madrid’s defending was frantic at times but they made sure nothing got past the goal. In a harsh call, Vinicius Jr. got in the referee’s book in the 10th minute of the game.
Toni Kroos got the first sniff of a goal on the 16th minute but his shot flew over the top after Madrid had forced Ter Stegen into an error to produce the chance in the first place. Carvajal and Alba both got booked soon after for an altercation. Barcelona missed a huge chance to go 1-0 up after Griezmann overhit Alba’s square pass. Messi had set Alba up nicely for the pass it back and the Spaniard obliged. But Griezmann’s effort was not up to the mark.
In attack, Real Madrid were struggling a bit. Isco, Valverde, and Vinicius were carrying the ball deep into Barcelona’s half but Madrid couldn’t find the end-product. Toni Kroos got another chance to shoot from distance but that wasn’t any good either. Isco was overlooked twice, first by Marcelo, then by Vinicius when he was in a relatively good position to score. On the other camp, Griezmann overlooked Alba twice who was left wide alone by Real Madrid’s defensive lines.
Barcelona got two more dangerous chances in the first half. First in was Arthur who evaded the line, thanks to Varane’s poor positioning but Courtois made a great save. Busquets fed Messi with a feather-pass but Leo was denied heroically by Courtois. The first half practically flew away in no time and the players headed for the tunnel.
Neither team made any changes at the end of the first half. The players resumed the game with the same intensity but Madrid looked a bit on the back foot in the second half. Barcelona were seeing more of the ball. Dani Carvajal put a great shift tonight, both in attack and defense. Madrid were patient at this stage, knowing that any rushed decisions in defense could cause bigger problems. Leo Messi got deep into his own half at times to carry the ball but Casemiro and co. made sure he ran out of steam by the end of the night.
Isco took a brilliant curled shot from out of the box which was saved by Ter Stegen. This was a brilliant moment and Madrid visibly got more pumped after this effort. Meanwhile, Benzema was having a very poor night. He missed a great chance to score with a volley from a very close range. The Frenchman didn’t even trouble the goalkeeper.
Then came the magic moment. Toni Kroos took all the time in the world to literally dictate Vinicius. The Brazillian was instructed to take a run which he did. Toni Kroos provided a precise pass to aid his run. Vinicius went all the way to hit the jackpot that went in with a slight deflection from Pique. The Bernabéu crowd went into a frenzy as Viunicus did Ronaldo’s famous “Siiiiiuuu” celebration.
Madrid had worked really hard to go 1-0 up in this game. They did not want to make the same mistakes that they made against PSG and Man City. Marcelo provided another top moment of the night. Leo Messi was cruising all alone in his way to score but Marcelo made a huge tackle and then punched his fists into the air to get a roar out of the crowd. It felt like it was the 2016-17 version of the legend. Real Madrid however, missed another opportunity after a close-range free-kick hit the wall. Messi also got booked on the 85th minute for a foul on Casemiro.
Madrid’s first two substitutes Modric and Lucas settled into the tempo of the game very nicely after Isco and Valverde were taken off. Both midfielders put in tremendous performances. They were practically everywhere whenever Madrid needed to counter-press. But the final nail was still due. Zidane brought in Mariano after the 90th minute of the game. It seemed to be an act of wasting a few seconds on the clock but the Mariano had other ideas. He vaporized Barca’s left flank and scored from an acute angle to leave his mark on this gigantic victory. Mariano was seen in tears after the goal.
This game, this comeback after a terrible run of games, can only be associated with Real Madrid. If they can keep their head as cool as they did in the last 30 minutes of the game, good things are bound to happen.
Key Events and Line-ups
Real Madrid XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Isco, Valverde; Vinicius, Benzema.
Goal(s): Vinicius Jr (71′), Mariano (92′).
Susbtitute(s): Modric for Isco (79′), Lucas for Valverde (86′), Mariano for Benzema (90′).
Booking(s): Vinicius (10′), Carvajal (19′).
Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Arthur, De Jong, Vidal; Griezmann, Messi.
Substitute(s): Martin Braithwaite for Vidal (69′), Rakitic for Arthur (80′), Fati for Griezmann (81′).
Booking(s): Alba (19′), Messi (85′).
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz.