The wait for Sunday’s Classic between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid is finally over. Camp Nou turned into a huge celebratory arena in the second half, when Luis Suarez expertly controlled a ball fed to him by Dani Alvez and ran between two defenders before blasting the match-winner past a helpless Casillas. On paper, it was just a La Liga fixture between two Spanish sides. But historically branded as El Clasico, the event held the attention of the global football community. This is not unusual since FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF are two of the most celebrated and richest football clubs in the world with their rosters reading the who’s who of football. While Barcelona has Lionel Messi, Real Madrid is endowed with Cristiano Ronaldo, two of the most consistent goal-scorers in football history. For the last six years, the two football giants have shared the FIFA Ballon d’Or award. Ronaldo has been honored as a recipient of football’s most prestigious individual recognition over the last two years after Messi held the Ballon d’Or award in the preceding four years on the trot. The two greats have their own individual styles. While Messi still plays with school boyish enthusiasm with darting runs on the field with team-mates, Ronaldo is more of a showman. But the Portuguese has such powerful and curling shots that threaten the opposition every time he charges towards the goal.
Other than Messi and Ronaldo, the Spanish clubs from two divergently cultural cities of Spain spend millions of euros in attracting the best football talent from around the world. This is what makes El Clasico games so important. When you hear about the prices footballers are paid by FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, you can hardly believe that Spain is passing through an economic crisis for the last several years. Barcelona’s roster includes such classy players as Neymar, Luis Suarez, Claudio Bravo, Jordi Alba, Dani Alves, Andres Iniesta, Javier Mascherano and many more. Real is equally starred with names like Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Toni Kroos, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema Marcelo, James Rodrigues and others. No wonder then that El Clasico matches should hold football lovers in a trance for 90 minutes, whenever they are played. Last Sunday’s encounter at Camp Nou was as eagerly awaited as any of the other previous matches with billions of words in print much before the event actually took place. In addition, television, radio and social media sites were clogged with their own versions of what the event would hold for spectators and historians. The match is now over but analysis, commentary, opinions and feature articles will continue to be lapped up by readers and listeners over the coming days.
On Sunday, atmosphere in Camp Nou was electric as minutes ticked by before the kickoff. Quite clearly, FC Barcelona fans far outnumbered those from Madrid and showed their passion with their colorful presence. Real Madrid fans at Camp Nou kept singing with their hearts and hoped their club would beat Barca to take the top spot in La Liga table. The match began with both sides trying to find possible goal-scoring avenues by running up and down the field. In the eighth minute, Gareth Bale got the ball and quickly moving inside, he played a reverse pass for Karim Benzema on his right. But when Benzema saw Gerard Pique in front, he took an early shot from an acute angle to send ball too wide on the far post. In 12th minute, Real close to scoring again when Marcelo sent a lovely pass through to Benzema but the Frenchman couldn’t shoot as the ball got stuck under his feet but in a smart twist, Benzema succeeded in finding Ronaldo at close range. By his standards, Ronaldo should have sent the ball into the goal but he ended up hitting the crossbar. In the 19th minute, Barcelona got their first goal, when Messi sent a beautiful ball to Jeremy Mathieu, who could lose Sergio Ramos and fired a low header into the goal giving no chance to Iker Casillas. The goal brought the crowd alive and the pace of the game quickened. In the 31st minute, however, Real Madrid equalized, when Modric found Benzema in the FCB goal area. Benzema played smart and back-heeled a touch-pass to Ronaldo. Now the Portuguese sped with the ball and shot a right-footer past the Barcelona goalkeeper. In the 40th minute, Gareth Bale got a cross from Ronaldo and diverted the ball into the goal but he was ruled off-side. The teams went out with the halftime score of 1-1.
Several chances came for both sides after the break but none could be converted. But in the 56th minute, Dani Alves lobbed the ball over a Real defender and it was collected by Luis Suarez far clear off Ramos and Pepe. Suarez exercised great control and produced an exquisitely timed diagonal shot from right to left past straight into the goal and Casillas could only watch. Suarez’s first El Clasico goal gave his team a 2-1 lead. After that, Barcelona built up the pressure and could have scored in the 67th minute, when Neymar broke on a solo run and went all the way to the goal area before wasting the effort. Neymar missed another chance in the 74th minute, when Messi released him but the Brazilian shot wide. In the 87th minute, Messi came close to scoring but his firm low drive was saved by Casillas. No further chances came for the teams afterwards and Barcelona emerged victorious at Camp Nou to the utter delight of cheering home fans.
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