What happens when two factions of a country fight each other? When sovereigns fight against the revolutionist? Spain has always been a country where the Catalans and Castilians were at loggerheads with each other. This epic rivalry has also carved a niche for itself in the realm of football or any sport for that matter. FC Barcelona, the Catalan flag-bearer and Real Madrid, the unofficially official club of Spain have always had it bitter on the pitch. This edition of El Clasico is no exception. TheHardTackle brings to you five such pulsating matches, which had the entire world enthralled by the mesmerizing display of football in these games.
Real Madrid entered this match with a lot of promise. With Jose Mourinho at the helm of affairs and players like Ronaldo, Benzema, Ozil, Alonso and Di Maria at his disposal, Real Madrid looked set to give FC Barcelona a run for their money. The club from Madrid travelled to Barcelona as league leaders. What followed next was termed by Florentino Perez, as the worst game in Real Madrid’s history.
Prior to the match, Real Madrid were subjected to some hostile reception at the El Prat. The hostility continued on the pitch at Camp Nou too. Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid succumbed to FC Barcelona’s attacking prowess and went on to concede 5 goals – a Manita. The match was barely 5 minutes old when Lionel Messi proved why he is considered to be in a class of his own. The diminutive Argentine curled a left-footed shot over a stranded Iker Casillas, from a very tight angle, in a congested Real Madrid penalty box – only to see his effort ricochet off the post. The deadlock was eventually broken by Xavi. Although known to be the provider for majority of the Barcelona goals, the midfield maestro latched onto a fabulous pass from Iniesta only to lob it unperturbedly over an imminent Iker Casillas. From there, everything went downhill for the visitors. Pedro doubled the lead in sometime and then there was no looking back. Barca ran riot. Three more goals, a brace by Villa and another by Jeffren, followed and Real Madrid surrendered the top spot to FC Barcelona. Emotions sparked from every corner of the Camp Nou, as Eduardo Iturralde González had to flash out as many as 13 yellow cards, including a double yellow to Sergio Ramos and subsequently a red card. Despite the fact that Leo Messi wasn’t on the score-sheet, he proved his worth by shredding the Madrid defense to pieces and Jose Mourinho thus suffered the worst defeat in his entire career.
FC Barcelona travelled to the home of their arch rivals and slalomed past Real Madrid to leave them wounded. Six goals at the Bernabeu mirrored the dominance of the Catalan club. The match started on an even footing and contrary to what the final scoreline might suggest, it was Gonzalo Higuain who gave the Blancos an early lead. However, a sublime pass by Leo Messi, an embarrassing mistake by Sergio Ramos and a cool finish by Thierry Henry brought Barca on level terms and from there on, there was no looking back. Henry’s goal was followed by a powerful header from Captain Carles, and another cool finish by Leo Messi. The two heavyweights went into the break with 4 goals between them, albeit the majority of them were with the visitors.
The second half wasn’t anything different in terms of the number of goal scored or the proportion. Madrid fullback, Sergio Ramos connected well to a Robben freekick and brought the hosts closer. However, Guardiola’s men had other ideas and soon 3 more goals from Henry, Messi and Pique, sealed the match. The display of football was of such quality that comparisons were drawn to that of the Johan Cruyff-led 1974 FC Barcelona team, which won 5-0 at the same venue.
If any high profile football match ever reminded you of a pendulum, this has to be it. In the 2006-07 season, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid ended the season on level terms (76 points) only for the latter to sneak ahead on the basis of a better head-to-head record. Madrid arrived at the Camp Nou with a string of draws behind them. Prior to this match, they had drawn against the likes of Real Betis, Atletico Madrid & Getafe and quite understandably, Barcelona started the match as favourites. The start of the match said otherwise. Barcelona was under duress and that was apparent in Thuram’s weak clearance of a low Gonzalo Higuain pass which fell to Ruud Van Nistelrooy and the Dutchman did what he does best and gave Capello’s men the lead, as early as the 4th minute. Barcelona’s riposte was in the form of a juvenile Lionel Messi, who gave the world a glimpse of what he’s capable of.
The pendulum swung from Barca’s favour to Madrid’s, as Van Nistelrooy put them ahead, once again, from the spot, after Guti was fouled inside the penalty box. The trio of Messi, Eto’o and Ronaldinho, kept on threatening the Madrid defense and eventually from one such interplay Ronaldinho’s shot ricocheted off Iker Casillas and fell on the way of Lionel Messi who ingeniously chose to hit the roof of the net, as the three sticks were guarded by as many men. Barcelona thus got back into the match yet again. Both teams went into the break with the score tied. The world wasn’t aware of Lionel Messi, who wore number 19 then, much and hence the Madrid defense didn’t mark him as scrupulously as he is now. Messi got few more chances, but failed to find the back of the net. Recurrent attacks at either fortress were parried away by their respective custodians until the beginning of the final quarter when a fortuitous header by Sergio Ramos found the back of the net, leaving Victor Valdes stranded. With every passing minute, the match looked out of reach for Barca. Misses by Xavi, Iniesta amongst others further substantiated this. Finally Lionel Messi rose to the occasion, latched onto a through ball and went past three white shirts to slot home the equaliser, thus snapping his hattrick – the first player to score a hattrick in an El Clasico, after Ivan Zamorano in 1995 and the first Barcelona player after Romario in 1994.
Real Madrid had won the La Liga by the time Barcelona went to the Bernabeu and the Catalans paid respect to their illustrious opponent in the form of the Pasillo. A lacklustre FC Barcelona were duly punished by the Blancos as they scored 4 times. The visitors in return could score only one, but it was too little, too late. The procession began when Raul, taking advantage of a defensive lapse, scored from just outside the box with a curling left-footed shot. At the conclusion of the first quarter of the match, Dutch winger, Arjen Robben connected well with his head to a Guti free kick and inflicted further punishment on the hapless Blaugranas with the second goal for the Blancos. The scores remained that way till the end of the first half.
The second half resumed and Real Madrid picked up from where they left. At around the hour mark, Argentine Higuain received a low cross from the right and pulled Valdes out of position only to lob over the custodian to get his team’s 3rd of the night, thereby smacking to death any chances of a Barcelona comeback. Madrid were not done yet though and the referee was kind enough to award them a penalty when Carles Puyol had no time to pull his arms out of the way of Robinho’s cross. Van Nistelrooy duly tucked in the spot-kick only moments after coming on as a substitute and there was clearly no way back for the Blaugrana then. Although Lionel Messi tried to test the Madrid defense late into the game, the hosts were thoroughly in control of the game. However, the Argentine set up Henry well and the latter came up with a fine shot from outside the box to reduce the deficit, a couple of minutes from time.
This match takes us back to the Galacticos era. Real Madrid boasted of stars like Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Michael Owen, Luis Figo and David Beckham amidst a host of other superstars. FC Barcelona too had stars in Ronaldinho, Guily, Deco and Henrik Larsson. In the first instalment of this fixture, FC Barcelona won convincingly at their backyard. However, the return leg produced a contrasting result and Real Madrid overpowered their guests with four goals to two.
Former World Player of The Year, Zinedine Zidane opened the scoring for Madrid as he connected to a Ronaldo cross. In the process, the midfielder injured himself by clashing against the goalpost. Dead ball specialist, David Beckham’s inch perfect cross was put to use as Ronaldo tested Victor Valdes; the latter failed, thereby giving the capital side a two-goal cushion. Samuel Eto’o, pulled one back for the visiting after jostling with the Madrid defenders to poke the ball beyond a surging Casillas. Roberto Carlos’ pace and strength down the left flank was too much for the Catalans and the wingback paved the way for Madrid’s third as he laid Raul to do what he does best. Barcelona were down three goals to one, with their chances of resurrection diminishing with every passing second. Around the hour mark, Michael Owen slotted home from a David Beckham assist, only to castigate any chance of a Barcelona-comeback. Ronaldinho finally curled in a beautiful freekick to reduce the deficit but the damage had been done. Real Madrid went on to win the match by a two-goal margin. Barcelona however, ended up winning the 2004-05 domestic title.
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