Zinedine Zidane’s team once again proved its worth by making a spirited comeback from the Catalans to claim a crucial 2-1 victory in Saturday’s Clásico.
Real Madrid had to clench their teeth and cross their fingers, but they are used to it. They did it while filming last season to become league champions.
On Saturday night, under torrential rain at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, Zinedine Zidane’s team dug deep again, this time suppressing Barcelona in the El Clásico for a 2-1 victory that puts them on top of the the board.
It may just be thanks to their head-to-head record with Atlético de Madrid, with both teams scoring 66 points, but this was a huge win for Los Blancos.
Deprived of center-backs Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, there was a lot of pressure on an impromptu defense, but they held their ground despite the removal of battle ax Casemiro at the end.
Barcelona’s teenage substitute Ilaix Moriba came within millimeters of equalizing in the last minute of injury time, but his shot slammed into Thibaut Courtois’ crossbar, leaving the visitors devastated but the hosts jubilant.
This was the most important El Clásico in years, with both teams in good shape and fighting for the possibility of usurping Atlético, which places Betis at the top of the standings this Sunday.
It also lived up to expectations, with apocalyptic conditions and flaws on both sides, resulting in an exciting and chaotic encounter.
However, there was nothing flawed in Real Madrid’s first game. He came from a brilliant break, with Fede Valverde at the helm, before Lucas Vázquez crossed for Karim Benzema.
The French forward only had one option: to go with a heel back at Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s near post. And he did it with the confidence of a player who has scored nine goals in his last seven league games.
He has been Madrid’s point man since Cristiano Ronaldo left and if they win the title again, he will deserve a lot of credit for carrying the load in attack.
Behind him is a midfield who has won it all but still wants to do it again, and it was fit Toni Kroos who converted the second with a deflected free kick from the edge of the area.
It was Madrid’s first goal from a free kick in a Clásico since Roberto Carlos in 2000, although the German’s effort was well below the standard of the legendary Brazilian.
Sergino Dest turned his back on Kroos’ effort and the ball slapped him, and the American proved to be more of an open door than a solid wall. Jordi Alba headed the ball on the line, but was unable to finish off the deflected shot towards safety.
Barcelona wanted a penalty when Ferland Mendy collided with Ousmane Dembélé in the area, and while he fell into the ‘given’ category, the fact is that Madrid paid off for their 2-0 lead.
The Catalans improved shortly before the break, with Lionel Messi hitting the post directly from a corner and then forcing a strong save from Thibaut Courtois.
Helped by a real storm in the second half, Barcelona withdrew a goal.
Jordi Alba’s center was cleverly blocked by substitute Antoine Griezmann and he finished awkwardly, but was nevertheless finished by defender Oscar Mingueza.
That gave the visitors a platform to push for the draw, which almost came in the final stages, but Madrid, like last season, when they charged for the title with sheer bravery and determination, withstood Barca’s onslaught.
The Blaugrana are now third in the table and are just one point behind the top two, but Ronald Koeman’s young team pales in comparison to Madrid in terms of knowledge and experience in winning titles.
Zidane’s men come to life in big games and at crucial moments. This is how they won three Champions Leagues in a row and their winning mentality means that they are now in a great position for business at the end of the season.
They are going to sleep tonight as toppers in Spain and, heading into Wednesday’s trip to Anfield, they already have one foot in the Champions League semi-finals thanks to their 3-1 midweek win over Liverpool.
The double is ready for Madrid. Doubt them at your own risk.
source: – target