The match ended with 4 goals, 8 yellow cards, a red card and lots of controversies. Pretty explosive for an El Clasico with no stakes.
The El Clasico has always been one of the most awaited football matches that features FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, two of the biggest football clubs on the planet. The clash is not just limited to the contrasting football styles of the clubs as it is also seen as a clash between Spain and Catalunia. With such importance attached to the match, it has always lived up to the expectation of football fans. Emotions run high on the field as tempers flare and controversies and fights ensue. This Sunday’s El Clasico had been described as a damp affair even before its start as Barcelona had already won the league while Real Madrid were being cautious in preparation for the Champions League Finals. The fact that this was Iniesta’s last Clasico was the only reason most fans looked forward to the football match. There were others who reminded the fact that Barcelona had remained unbeaten during the league and cup season so far and a defeat would mean they would fail to go the full season unbeaten.
But all of that damp El Clasico talk turned into dust as Barcelona took an early lead through Luis Suarez who perfectly connected with a Sergio Roberto cross. Real Madrid soon equalized as Cristiano Ronaldo connected with Benzema’s headed pass that was set up by Toni Kroos. Both teams continued to threaten each other’s goals as chances were being created left and right. Ronaldo also picked up an injury that saw him hobbling during the rest of the half. By the end of the 40th minute, two of Real Madrid’s defenders were shown yellow cards and so were Barcelona’s Messi and Saurez. But the real controversy started when the referee failed to notice Gareth Bale’s horrible challenge on Samuel Umtiti that should have earned him a straight red card.
Things soon started getting heated up as half-time approached. A Real Madrid attack on the left flank saw a clash between Marcelo and Sergio Roberto. The latter lost as cool and threw his fist into Marcelo’s face. The referee had a clear view of this clash and showed a straight red to Roberto just at the half-time break. This meant that Barcelona had to play the entire second half, one man down.
While Barcelona were down to 10-men, Real Madrid had to substitute Ronaldo due to his first-half injury that caused a swollen ankle. Real Madrid dominated the half but were not able to create many chances. Barcelona once again took the lead as Messi scored from Suarez’s pass. There was a fierce protest from Real Madrid players as Saurez had fouled Varane in the lead up to the goal but got away with it. Real Madrid struggled to find the equalizer against a 10-man Barcelona and it was Gareth Bale who curled it in the 72nd minute to level the scoreline.
Barcelona continued to attack as a super effort from Lionel Messi was beautifully saved by Navas. Messi once again ended up close to scoring as a curling shot from him ended just wide from the post. Real Madrid too were starting to take advantage of 10-man Barcelona. Marcelo was brought down inside Barcelona’s box but the referee once again made a controversial call as Real Madrid were denied a clear penalty. Barcelona, having given a clear lifeline, continued to resist all advances from Real Madrid and hang on to dear life. Nelson Semedo brought on for Coutinho to take up Roberto’s position in defense, impressed with his speed and stamina. Finally, Semedo cleared the ball with a header as the referee blew the final whistle.
Andres Iniesta’s final El Clasico had exploded into life early on and lived up to the billing. There was applause all around has the Maestro took his one last bow.
Despite all the controversies and bad refereeing decisions, everyone was satisfied with the result. Barcelona’s manager Ernesto Valverde later exclaimed that it would have hurt if the unbeaten streak had been broken by Real Madrid, so a draw was a fair and acceptable result. As they say, even a draw means unbeaten. Everyone who saw Sunday’s El Clasico will agree that the players took to field as if everything was at stake, contrary to the belief that nothing was.