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FC Barcelona and Real Madrid played to a 1-1 draw in the Wednesday’s El Classico, the meeting of the two bitter Spanish rivals, in the first leg of Copa del Rey at Barcelona’s home stadium Camp Nou.
This was a very entertaining Classico, with both sides able to create a lot of opportunities.
Malcom, the Brazilian forward for Barcelona, had a huge opportunity to prove to Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde that he should be a starter and, in my opinion, made the most of his chance.
The Barcelona defense was anchored by center back Gerard who had a phenomenal performance by blocking incoming balls from coming to the net and marking his men. If it wasn’t for him, Real Madrid would have been able to execute a lot more when attacking.
Vinícius Júnior, the rising star for Real Madrid at forward, showed from the start that he was a threat as an attacker he was a big part as to why Madrid had an early lead in the game.
Vinícius crossed it to Madrid striker Karim Benzema at the 6th-minute mark, while marked by Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba. The ball got to Benzema passed it to Madrid right winger Lucas Vázquez used his left foot to tap it into the back of the net, making it 1-0 for Real Madrid.
Nélson Semedo, Barcelona’s right back, had a heck of a game, probably his best game yet for the club. He ran up and down the pitch all game and out-dribbled his opponents.
After the goal, there was a lot of back and forth; Vinícius definitely had a big impact on the chances that Madrid was creating.
Semedo’s lack of experience was noticeable from the start since usually; Valverde puts Sergi Roberto starting right back for Barcelona, but Valverde started Semedo at the position knowing that Vinícius is quick and he wanted a defender that could try to match his speed.
Around the 15th minute, Barcelona started to spark up a little more and their possession game more and you didn’t see a lot of Madrid’s pressure that they had at the start.
You start seeing a partnership that you don’t really see with Barcelona which was Malcom and Semedo. At the start, you could tell that they were not used to each other’s playing style, but after 5 minutes and a few failed attempts, they began to click. Malcom often had the ball with Semedo running next to him and the two were able to get some one-touch passing going to break through the Madrid defense, and it was so perfect that even Vinícius was getting tired from running back and forth.
After the 30th minute, Barcelona was able to start creating some more chances. Malcom cut in from the right side and passed it to Barcelona striker Luiz Suarez, to shoot it with his weaker foot and the ball did not find the back of the net.
The Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas made excellent saves from shots by Suarez and Malcom.
Vinícius, still around the 35th-minute, was going for his second goal. He got the ball and ran through the defense from the left side to either cut in or pass to someone in the middle, but Semedo and Pique were always right there to block it. Vinícius was the spark behind a lot of Madrid’s scoring opportunities.
After the second half, you could tell right off the bat that Barcelona was back from their lack of presence from the 1st half; they were playing more of their usual possession style of play.
At the 57th minute mark, Jordi Alba got the ball in front of Navas; he blocked it and rebounded to Suarez – who’s incredible shot curved into the direction of the net and Madrid center back Sergio Ramos had to come in at the last second to clear the ball and prevent a goal. And it rebounded to Malcom, who took a step to aim it with his left foot and the ball went inside the net. It equalized the game at 1-1 for Barcelona and that’s how the game ended.
Madrid’s performance overall was better than most people expected going into the match, Madrid was not expected to play as well as they did against Barcelona. Madrid had a lot of chances to score but, because of the incredible performances by Pique and Semedo, they didn’t score.
Benzema recently found himself in a nice scoring streak before his game, with 6 goals in his previous 4 games before putting up only an assist against Barcelona.
Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal didn’t really show for a lot of the game, he sometimes defended Coutinho and sometimes let him pass.
There were incredible performances from everyone on Barcelona’s defense, except for Clément Lenglet, Barcelona’s other center back. Lenglet looked slow and sluggish on the ball; he was the reason why the first goal happened since he didn’t run and let Vázquez score the goal.
Barcelona’s midfield also played well, up-and-coming midfielder Arthur Melo started slowly because of the pressure from Madrid, but then a few minutes later he adapted to the pressure and was himself again.
Barcelona’s Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitić was not himself today; he lost a lot of the balls that were coming to him and whiffed on some of his passes.
The second leg of Copa del Rey will be on February 27th at 3 p.m. EST.