Yet another El Clasico came to a frenzied end after Barcelona beat Real Madrid 4-3 to earn three crucial points in the La Liga. A match that saw 3 penalties, 1 red card and 7 goals, this El Clasico was an entertaining battle, one that swerved both ways and finally ended in Barcelona’s favour in what might be a highly controversial battle. So what did we learn from this galactic encounter? Here’s the list.
1)It Doesn’t Take Much To Earn A Penalty In Spain
3 penalties awarded in the space of 30 minutes changed the entire complexion of the match. To say that the three penalties were controversial will not justify the referee’s performance on Sunday as at least two of them were clearly not penalties at all. The first was a dubious penalty, awarded for a tackle outside the box that gave Cristiano Ronaldo the opportunity to make the score-line 3-2 in Real’s favour. Santiago Bernabeu was definitely not complaining but replays made it clear that Dani Alves tackled the Portuguese outside the box which the referee failed to spot despite being very close to the incident. What was equally bizarre was that the official did not deem it sufficient to award the Brazillian a card at all, not even a yellow.
Ten minutes late, Alberto Undiano awarded another penalty at the opposite end after Sergio Ramos clipped a Neymar who made the most of it with his dramatic fall. It was quite similar to the one awarded to Ronaldo ten minutes earlier except this was inside the box. However the referre wasn’t done for the night. On the 83rd minute, with the match levelled at 3-3, Undiano awarded yet another penalty to Barcelona after Alonso brought Iniesta down despite the Catalan being no where near the ball. Baffled Real Madrid players tried to protest the decision as Iniesta had already lost the ball but the referre stood firm as Messi scored a brilliant penalty to make the match 4-3 in his favour. As it seems, tt probably isn’t that difficult in Spain to make the referee point to the spot.
2)Sergio ‘Red Card’ Ramos and Pepe the Madman Prove Unreliable For Big Occasions
Real Madrid’s centre-backs have proven themselves to be instrumental in Real’s success this season. Brilliant defenders though they might be, they once again showed how unreliable they are when it comes to stepping up for the big occasions. Pepe got into an immature brawl with Fabregas after Messi’s equalizer (2-2), one that was slightly provoked but would have resulted in a straight red if spotted by the referee.
The Portuguese made a rash tackle on Neymar in the first half, once that was inside the box and was luckily (again) not spotted by the referee. On the other hand, Sergio Ramos did get a straight red card after clipping Neymar in the box although the penalty could be termed as a ‘soft’ one. However the Spaniard had no business coming so close to Neymar knowing clearly well that a slight knick will send the Brazillian flying to the ground and himself out of it. And that is what happened. Penalty to Neymar-Red Card for the Spaniard. A defeat for the 10-man Real Madrid then was quite on the cards.
3) Messi Still Has It
The Argentine wonder-boy proved yet again why you cannot write him off at any point in the season. Having received his fair share of criticism for his performances on the pitch lately, Messi was high on inspiration as he hammered in a hattrick to gift Barcelona 3 crucial points in the La Liga. Messi was instrumental in the latest El Clasico-he set up Iniesta for the first goal, scored a great equaliser and then converted twice from the spot as Barcelona put 4 past a hapless Diego Lopez. On the other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo made his impact felt too as he earned an important (and wrongly given) penalty to give Real the lead (3-2) in the match. However the Portuguese was nowhere close to his Argentine rival and failed to add much to Real’s attacking chances. He drifted in and out and failed to make much of an impact. Bale on the other flank did light up the Bernabeu with his electrifying runs but the Welsh winger failed to provide the important last ball and ended up conceding a goal-kick from a good position on more than one occasion.
4) Iniesta-Di Maria-Benzema: The Quiet Magicians
Despite all talks of the El Clasico being a Cristiano Ronaldo vs Messi battle, it was Iniesta, Di Maria and Benzema who lit up the Santiago Bernabeu with their brilliant performances. Though Messi was instrumental in all of Barcelona’s goals, he did not however make his trademark runs that spilt open the defences. It was Iniesta who quietly worked his magic on the left wing, making a fool out of Carvajal and helped Barcelona establish total control of the game. Quite similarly, it wasn’t Ronaldo or Bale who stepped up to the big occasion but the lanky Di Maria who played quite brilliantly on the left wing to provide the 2 assists. While critics and fans continue heaping praises on Ronaldo and Bale this season (not undeservedly so), the Argentine has somehow missed out on the limelight but has shown himself to be the man for big occasions. And remember a certain Karim Benzema who would be booed out of the Santiago Bernabeu at the start of the season? Neither do I. Benzema has transformed himself (yet again) into a lethal striker and scored two great goals in quick successions to give Real the lead in the first half. He almost scored a hattrick and missed two great opportunities to do so. Sharp, past and precise-Benzema has rediscovered his true potential this season.
5)La Liga To Go Down To The Wire
Probably the biggest lesson learnt after Sunday was that the La Liga is all set to go down to the wire. With just 9 games left this season, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid are tied at the top with 70 points as Barcelona breathe down their neck at 69. So whose going to win the Spanish crown this season? It is anybody’s guess. As the season heats up, these three teams will battle each other as they look to put their hands on the La Liga trophy. There is no room for error and this battle will go down to the last fixture. And you know what that is? Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona. Food for thought.