Same teams, different day and occasion. Barcelona faced Sevilla at Camp Nou to overturn a significant deficit.
The Catalans were up for the fight as Ronald Koeman showed his intentions by keeping the same tactics that won him the game a few days ago. Well, the players were incredible. From Sergiño Dest to Ousmane Dembélé, passing by Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong. Every Blaugrana shirt was head and shoulders above every white one.
The first-half was a recital of football from the locals, and all they needed was a bit more luck with their finishing to get the second.
Well, Barcelona kept on going in the second half. The Catalan giants were relentless. Both their pressing and their attacking movement were near-perfect; they just lacked the finishing.
In truth, it is hard to score twice when a side defends as Sevilla did. The visitors played a very conservative game and tried to go on the counter. One could count the Sevillans’ opportunities on their hand. That shows how good the Blaugrana players were.
In the end, Barcelona got what they deserved. They played superbly and got a deserved leveller at the death. The Catalan side gives their fans the chills every time they step on the pitch, and this night, after the Granada one last tie, will be cherished in Barcelona folklore.
Watch: Ronald Koeman celebrating Gerard Piqué’s agg. equaliser goal
Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!! Vamooooos equipoooo! pic.twitter.com/W2irdyZeUv— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona_es) March 3, 2021
Well, when Sevilla tried to play football, they could not. The Andalusians were atrocious on the night and let Barcelona complete the comeback. They created nothing while being peppered with shots all night, while their hopes ended after being down to 10 men.
There was one team on the pitch tonight, and they played in red and blue. That comeback was magnificent and thoroughly deserved for the finalists.
12′ GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Sevilla: Ousmane Dembélé and Lionel Messi combine well in the box, and the Frenchman manages to keep the ball on his feet. The Frenchman, on the edge of the box, takes an audacious shot that ends in the top corner, and he puts his side in front!
33′ Dembélé is on the counter and finds Messi. The captain spots Frenkie de Jong, but the Dutchman cannot get his head on the ball. Pedri finds Messi in the tightest of angles, but the Argentine’s deflected shot is cleared off the line.
67′ Messi and Antoine Griezmann play a beautiful one-two, and the Frenchman makes a one-time pass to Dembélé. The goalscorer waits, weighs his options and sends a beautiful cross towards Jordi Alba. The left-back’s volley crashes into the crossbar.
72′ Sevilla are on the counter as Piqué cannot stop En-Nesyri. The Morrocan’s pass is brilliant, and Ocampos gets into the box where Oscar Mingueza tackles him. Penalty Sevilla.
73′ Marc-André Ter Stegen goes to his left and saves Ocampos’ penalty!
93′ Fernando stops Francisco Trincão from going through on goal and gets his second yellow card. The Brazilian is sent off.
94′ GOAL Barcelona 2-0 Sevilla: It is a corner for Barcelona and Griezmann keeps the ball on the edge of the box. The Frenchman sends it long, and Gerard Piqué scores.
95′ GOAL! Barcelona 3-0 Sevilla: Barcelona complete the comeback! Sevilla try to keep the ball out of their box, but Jordi Alba sends a cross towards Martin Braithwaite, and the Great Dane’s header ends up in the back of the net.
101′ Sevilla send a cross towards Ter Stegen’s goal, and the ball hits Clément Lenglet’s hand. VAR checks the play for a potential penalty but refuses to award the trailing side a penalty.
Three talking points from Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona
In the final edition of El Clásico in the 2020/21 domestic campaign, Barcelona incurred their fifth defeat of the league campaign. It was end-to-end stuff in the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, as an exceptional first-half performance from the hosts was followed up by a tantalizing second from Barça.
This game had everything someone could ask for in a Clásico. There was controversy, passion, goals and for the first time in a few years, a red card was the cherry on the top. These are Barca Universal’s takeaways from the game in the capital.
Real Madrid’s efficiency on show
With four shots on target, 1.58 Expected Goals, and two goals to their name, Real Madrid put to show their sheer efficacy in front of goal, as well as in defence. For the first half at least, Zinédine Zidane’s men were always at the right place, at the right time making all the right movements and to devastating effect.
Los Blancos‘ philosophy is one of winning, and doing so regardless of how the victory is earned. Contrary to the Catalans, who not only need to win, but also do it a certain way, Los Merengues are more than capable of abandoning their usually proactive approach to games in favour of a more reactive one. The fact that they are not bound to a specific ideology makes winning matches one of the simplest of tasks.
They held the ball for only 32% of the game, which goes completely against what a majority would expect them to. At the end of the day, however, possession matters significantly less than what one does with it. With every lapse in concentration from the Garnet and Blue, Madrid had enough men forward, and well enough positioned, to hit them where it hurt.
Despite the relatively low xG, they had enough big chances to even lead 4-0 come the halftime whistle. When it came to defending, their tight-knit defence, in stark contrast to that of their rivals, barely broke a sweat. They imposed an impenetrable low block, and applied a collective press to force as many errors as they could.
In addition to this, Zidane has the luxury of having a starting eleven of devastatingly versatile footballers in his arsenal. Fede Valverde for instance was as much a right-back as he was a central midfielder and a winger. He executed each role to pristine perfection, and so did his peers to ensure all 3 points, and bragging rights stayed in Madrid.
Excellent mentality shift
Following such a harrowing performance in the first half, few, if any, could have expected Barcelona to mount a comeback. Had this been any other team, that would have been possible, but given Real Madrid’s first-half performance, this was all but envisageable.
Indeed, the Catalans did fail to get any points from the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, however, the sheer mentality they showed in the second half was a sight for sore eyes. Ronald Koeman made the necessary adjustments to the side, reverting to the 4-3-3 and with it, they wrought trouble in the Madrid backline.
Lionel Messi celebrating the goal. pic.twitter.com/ZX1HzWSqAR— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) April 10, 2021
If in the first half Barça seemed caged in endless cycles of worthless possession, then in the second they made thorough use of it. The Blaugrana created eleven chances for themselves in the second period, and while doing this, they in turn limited Los Blancos to just a single shot on goal for the entirety of the half; a complete turnover from their performance in the opening 45 minutes.
It was nail-biting stuff up until the final second of the game, as Ilaix Moriba’s volleyed effort struck the underside of the crossbar. Given the overall performance from both sides, a draw would have been a considerably fairer result, but even in defeat with this version of Barça, the players and fans know that they can keep their heads held high.
A game of fine margins
Games of the magnitude of El Clásico will forever be decided by the most minute of details and the same was the case here.
The first significant one was the frame of the goal. In the first half, following the umpteenth counter attack from Real Madrid, Fede Valverde, who up until then was having yet another phenomenal showing against Barcelona, struck the frame of the post with a shot that crucially bounced underneath Sergio Busquets.
In the second half, Ronald Araújo nearly scored an own goal, but with Ter Stegen rooted to the spot, the ball rolled delicately onto the post and out for a corner. In the final minute of the match, and with Madrid fighting for their lives, Ilaix Moriba struck the underside of the crossbar to end this sensational tie on an emotional high.
Jordi Alba has often been criticized for being just as much a blessing offensively as he is a curse defensively. In the build-up to the hosts’ opener, he had one task to fulfill: mark his opposing fullback. This is one he absolutely failed, as he drifted too far inside, and by the time he had noticed his error, Lucas Vázquez already had Karim Benzema in his sights. Too little, too late.
The final significant detail was in the goal that won Los Blancos the game. After what many consider a poorly given free-kick from the referee’s standpoint, Toni Kroos surely could not believe his eyes when he saw the sheer state of Barça’s wall. Marc André Ter Stegen’s poor leadership of his defenders left him utterly vulnerable, and his German counterpart spared him no blushes, slotting it home to seal the victory for his side.