Following two defeats in all competitions, Barcelona picked up a massive win at Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey first leg. The 1-0 win carries over into the second leg in around a month’s time at Camp Nou.
Entering the game, the two heated rivals were on contrasting form. Real Madrid, fresh off a draw against Atletico Madrid in the league, defeated Liverpool at Anfield with five goals against the hosts. On the other hand, Barcelona lost for the fifth and sixth times this season in all competitions in a four day span. A usually resolute defense allowed two goals at Manchester United before a 1-0 loss at Almeria, which entered that weekend fixture in the relegation zone.
It was a flip in this game. Real Madrid, buoyed by the return of Rodrygo, looked lifeless in the attack. It was a credit to Barcelona’s defense, arguably the best in Europe this season, at least in league play. However, given the injuries Barcelona is dealing with it is a surprising result for the third Clasico of the season.
The difference was an own goal, a fitting tribute given that Barcelona played without its its three top scorers on the season, Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele and Pedri. All three missed the match with injuries, but could be back for the other two Clasico fixtures later this season.
Both teams score, only one counts
Real Madrid was the first team to put the ball in the back of the net. Karim Benzema, the club’s top scorer this season, took down a cross and slotted past Marc André Ter Stegen. However, the forward was clearly offside, and Barcelona kept the game scoreless.
Not long after, Real Madrid midfielder Eduardo Camavinga got caught in possession by a pressing Barcelona midfield. Ferran Torres took on the loose ball and played through Franck Kessié. Even though Thibaut Courtois saved the initial attempt, the rebound clanked off a retreating Eder Militao and past a helpless Nacho Fernandez. Eder Militao took on the unfortunate designation of an own goal in El Clasico.
Initially, the assistant referee flagged the play for offside. However, the heel of Ferland Mendy kept Kessié onside. The goal stood and proved to be the difference.
Barcelona defense holds Real Madrid in Copa del Rey
The talking point of this game, though, was the stalwart effort from Barcelona’s defense. Ronaldo Araujo shut down Vinicius Junior on Real Madrid’s left side. Karim Benzema was isolated away from making any kind of impact between Jules Koundé and Marcos Alonso. The size of Barcelona at the back did well to defend against crosses.
Remarkably, Real Madrid took 13 shots. None of those tested Ter Stegen in goal. Of course, the German goalkeeper did things right. Strong in the air and decisive on the ground. Real Madrid out-possessed Barcelona. The hosts out-passed Barcelona. The difference was an inability to test Ter Stegen.
Barcelona should have had two goals, in fact. Ferran Torres made a strong run down the right side before cutting the ball back to Kessié. However, the Ivorian’s shot on target, which was going to beat Courtois, bounced off Ansu Fati on the goal line and went wide.
There is a chance that opportunity comes back to haunt Barcelona. This was the first of the three contests to feature less than four goals. Therefore, both these teams are capable of scoring. That is what Real Madrid will have to do at Camp Nou on April 5 on ESPN+.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Pressinphoto
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