End-to-end football, simply the beautiful game. El Clasico usually delivers, but, in recent tears, it has never been as entertaining as today’s fixture. Against an out-of-form Madrid side, Koeman tinkered, and his new formula could’ve backfired a lot had his players not fully grasped it quickly. The Dutchman started with Pedri and Sergiño Dest, and the team shape showed Ansu Fati deployed as a number 9 with Leo Messi next to him.
The latter two were a big part of the game, with Messi unlucky not to put his team in front after being a massive part of Barça’s equaliser. Much like against Ferencvaros, Barcelona started with their foot off the gas pedal and, unlike against the Hungarians, they were punished for him. In the sixth minute, Gerard Piqué and Clément Lenglet were at fault for some shambolic defending that made Federico Valverde go one on one with Neto and score. A few seconds later, Barcelona’s woes were apparent and Vinicius could’ve scored the second goal had it not been for his awful shot.
That shot woke up the entire squad, and Messi’s genius translated to a superb pass in behind Nacho Fernandez, who had to be subbed off due to injury, to Jordi Alba. The former Valencia speedster found a lot of space and passed the ball to Ansu Fati, who had an easy finish to break the record for youngest goalscorer in Clasico history.
Ansu Fati celebrating his first ever El Clásico goal | Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images
After that goal, Barcelona and Real Madrid both had decent chances, with Messi making Sergio Ramos fall on his backside but stumble over Thibaut Courtois, who was excellent as per usual. Messi was at it again when he made Casemiro fall before being tackled by the Brazilian, a suspicious action as the VAR reviewed it but did not award a penalty. For Madrid, Neto had to make two excellent saves on counter-attacks, and the Merengues found it tough to break the Blaugrana defence easily.
A special mention to Sergiño Dest who, in his first El Clasico, had an excellent bombing forward and coming back to defend as Vinicius was tamed all game. The American made a last-ditch attempt on the Brazilian and saved Barcelona from a precarious situation, a superb start for him.
Exciting football for Koeman’s first El Clasico, significant tinkering and records broken, this was a spectacular half of football that perhaps should’ve seen more goals.
Half-time: Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid
After a promising second half, Barcelona came out with all guns blazing before being struck by thunder. The Catalans flew too high and, much like Icarus, burned their wings because of their stupidity.
At the beginning of the second half, everything was going according to the plan. Barcelona were pressing and devastating Madrid, who were praying for an opportunity, something to cling on. After many chances, especially one from Fati that went wide and another one, this time a header from Coutinho after a Fati cross, Barcelona were stung by Madrid and Sergio Ramos. Clément Lenglet stupidly pulled the Spanish defender’s shirt, and after a lengthy VAR review, the referee awarded a penalty to Los Blancos. Sergio Ramos scored, and Koeman’s side went down once again.
Speaking of the Dutch manager, he waited too long for his changes and Barcelona went into a phase of dominating the ball without dominating the game, it was dire from the Culés. After the changes were made, in the 80th minute, Neto saved three attempts on goal, twice from Kroos and another one from Varane. If it weren’t for the Brazilian, the scoreline would’ve been heavier.
Luka Modric found the net to put the game to bed after a ridiculous sequence where the Blaugranas were dire. The Croat toyed with Neto before scoring the dagger on a memorable night for the team in white.
In the end, Koeman’s squad didn’t take their chances and were punished for that. Conceding three goals to this Madrid side, with two lapses of concentration, is absolutely unacceptable. While the Blaugranas deserved better from the second half, it’s always better to score than to be sorry for yourselves after the game—many things to change for the Culés ahead of the game against Juventus.
Full-time: Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid
Barcelona player ratings vs Sevilla — Hosts unable to get past Mingueza, the wall
Turning headless chickens into mature students of the game turned out to be Ronald Koeman’s biggest achievement at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, where the Catalan giants had recently just suffered a disappointing loss. On the score-sheet, the margin may not have looked considerable, but on the field, Barcelona were pretty much untouchable, courtesy in large parts to the structural change made by Koeman.
A performance this cohesive and harmonized was much needed after the countless defeats Barça have suffered on the big stage. Everything Cules have strived to see in this team, was present, and while consistency has been the club’s biggest hurdle, this win undoubtedly holds a great deal of significance.
The Blaugranas have arguably exerted more energy in other games over the course of the campaign, but the spirit Barcelona lacked suddenly came to life. The pressing was in sync, every move was calculated and well crafted. Playing the Barcelona way in hostile territory against a team as dominant as Sevilla brought back life into a team devoid of wins in high magnitude encounters.
Marc-André Ter Stegen: 7
Ter Stegen oozed confidence as he came off his line and claimed the ball several times. Not only did he display composure, but the German rushed out of his box on one occasion to clear the ball and remove any danger that Sevilla’s potential attack possessed. With the exception of a poor pass, his distribution was immaculate. Even so, it must be admitted that the Sevilla forwards barely tested ter Stegen in goal with dangerous attempts on target.
Oscar Mingueza: 8.5
Oscar Mingueza was a vital reason as to why the Blaugrana defence was impenetrable. Piementa’s prodigy did not allow Lopetegui’s men to advance into any areas on the right side of the field. He won 6 out his 9 duels along winning 5 tackles, proving the 21-year-old’s precise ball-winning abilities remain crucial. Not to mention, his exceptional ball-playing ability enabled Barça to play with a high line thus applying further pressure on Sevilla.
Pique was the nail in the coffin to Barça’s counter-pressing strategies. The players would press the Sevilla Keeper and force him to heave the ball away, and this is where Pique’s aerial ability flourished, which particularly authorized the Catalans to regain possession. The Spanish veteran won 5 out of 7 of his aerial duels, thus showing his dominance in that area of play. His distribution was reliable as always and allowed the Catalans to retain a high defensive line at selected times.
The Frenchman is on route to recovering the form he once had, and this performance should do his confidence a world of good. Still prone to making errors, he dealt with Sevilla’s threat in a respectable manner. An improvement was observed in his ability to stay ahead of his man, which led to his positioning being marginally better. His second-half performance was key to the win as he stepped up after Pique and Ronald Araujo had to be subbed off. Lenglet must be appreciated for his tackling as they successfully neutralized a few well-structured attacks from the hosts.
Sergiño Dest: 7
Despite typically being perceived as a full-back, Ronald Koeman handed Dest the responsibility to play higher up the field as a right-wing-back. The American speedster enjoyed his new role with piercing runs behind Sevilla’s defence and looked a lot more explosive, with defensive cover behind him.
Sergino Dest vs Sevilla:— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) February 28, 2021
• Touches: 58
• Accurate passes: 36/42 (86%)
• Shots: 2
• Ground duels (won): 4 (2)
• Fouls won: 2
• Clearances: 2
• Interceptions: 2
— SofaScore pic.twitter.com/IjN74fDwhc
Dest launched a couple of promising crosses, but a major issue was that he shied away from entering 1v1 duels and instinctively looked to send in crosses. The US international also came oh-so-close to scoring after striking the post on one occasion.
Jordi Alba: 7.5
Similar to his wing-back partner in crime, Jordi Alba raided forward at any given opportunity, stretching the play wide and utilizing his raw pace throughout. Without having to worry about his defensive duties, the marauding Spaniard looked a lot more imposing. He was just inches away from tapping the ball into the opposition net after proceedings.
Frenkie de Jong: 8.5
De Jong’s season just proceeds to take massive leaps as the Dutchman proved to be a defining factor in the Catalans’ applaudable 2-0 victory. In spite of not stamping his name on the score-sheet, De Jong’s performance was worthy of endless praise, almost making it seem as if he was carrying around an extra pair of lungs. The former Ajax wonderboy surged forward, breaking the opposition’s lines tirelessly and constantly squirming his way out of tight areas.
Sergio Busquets: 7.5
The ageing veteran appeared to be recreating glimpses from the past as his counter-pressing was absolutely decisive in the Catalans’ attacking plays. Sergio Busquets – unlike most big game he has participated in – was not cheaply bullied off the ball and made possession purposeful for the Blaugranas. With defensive aid behind him, Busquets was back to his brilliant best.
The cog in Ronald Koeman’s midfield was once again a trusty figure in midfield and managed to string together some impressive plays in what appeared to be a 3-5-2 formation. Though Pedri’s involvement was substantially lower than usual, his display was mainly impeded by an injury he suffered in the 71st minute, disabling him from completing the full 90 minutes.
Lionel Messi: 8.5
Against his favourite opposition, Lionel Messi savoured the occasion to the fullest. The Argentine was an influential figure in the club’s victory away from home, with his creativity and efficiency in front of goal second to none. In the 29th minute of the game, Leo spotted a raiding Ousmane Dembélé through on goal as he bagged himself an assist for the Frenchman’s finish.
To cap off his outing, Barcelona’s captain weaved his way past a couple of Sevilla defenders and, after failing to chip the keeper, delicately slotted it into the net.
Ousmane Dembélé: 8
Sevilla were haplessly left chasing Ousmane Dembélé’s shadows. The Frenchman – without having to worry about his defensive tasks – waltzed forward continuously and enjoyed playing as a secondary striker, making runs in behind the defence and eventually proving his worth with a beautifully placed goal just before the half-hour mark. A much more mature and composed exhibition from the electric winger.
Ilaix Moriba: 7
Ronald Araujo: N/A
Martin Braithwaite: N/A
Samuel Umtiti: N/A