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"The El Clasico With Nothing to Play for" or So They Said
The match ended with 4 goals, 8 yellow cards, a red card and a lot of controversy. Pretty explosive for a non-stakes El Clasico.
El Clasico has always been one of the most anticipated football matches between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, the two biggest football clubs on the planet. The clash is not limited to the opposing football styles of the clubs, but is also seen as a clash between Spain and Catalonia. With such importance attached to the game, it has always lived up to the expectations of football fans. Emotions run high on the field as tempers flare and controversies and fights ensue. This week’s El Clasico has been described as a wet affair even before kick-off as Barcelona have already won the league while Real Madrid have been cautious in their preparations for the Champions League final. The fact that this was Iniesta’s last Clásico was the only reason most fans were looking forward to the football match. There were others who pointed to the fact that Barcelona have remained unbeaten in the league and cup seasons so far and that a defeat would mean they would not go the entire season without defeat.
But all that damp El Clasico talk turned to dust as Barcelona took an early lead through Luis Suarez who connected perfectly with Sergio Roberto’s cross. Real Madrid soon equalized when Cristiano Ronaldo headed in Benzema’s cross which was set up by Toni Kroos. Both teams continued to threaten each other with goals as chances were created left and right. Ronaldo also picked up an injury that kept him out for the rest of the half. By the end of the 40th minute, two Real Madrid defenders had received yellow cards, as had Barcelona’s Messi and Suarez. But the real controversy started when the referee failed to spot Gareth Bale’s terrible challenge on Samuel Umtiti that should have earned him a red card.
Things soon began to heat up as half time approached. Real Madrid’s attack from the left wing led to a clash between Marcelo and Sergio Roberto. The latter lost his cool and threw his fist in Marcel’s face. The referee had a clear view of this clash and showed a straight red to Robert only at the break. This meant that Barcelona had to play the entire second half with one player less.
While Barcelona were down to 10 men, Real Madrid had to replace Ronaldo due to his first half injury which caused a swollen ankle. Real Madrid dominated the half but failed to create many chances. Barcelona took the lead again after Messi scored from Suarez’s pass. There were fierce protests from Real Madrid players as Suarez fouled Varane in the lead-up to the goal, but got away with it. Real Madrid struggled to equalize against ten-man Barcelona, and it was Gareth Bale who equalized in the 72nd minute.
Barcelona continued to attack as Navas made a great save from Lionel Messi. Messi once again came close to scoring as his shot went wide of the post. Real Madrid also began to take advantage of Barcelona with ten players. Marcelo was brought down in the Barcelona penalty area, but the referee once again made a controversial call as Real Madrid were denied a clear penalty. Barcelona, after providing a clear lifeline, continued to resist all Real Madrid advances and hang on for dear life. Nelson Semedo brought in Coutinho to take Roberto’s position in defence, impressed by his speed and stamina. Finally, Semedo headed the ball away as the referee blew the final whistle.
Andres Iniesta’s last El Clasico exploded into life early and lived up to the billing. There was applause all around, and the maestro took his last bow.
Despite all the controversies and bad refereeing decisions, everyone was happy with the result. Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde later exclaimed that it would have hurt if Real Madrid had ended their unbeaten streak, so a draw was a fair and acceptable result. As they say, even a draw means undefeated. Anyone who saw Sunday’s El Clasico will agree that the players took to the field as if everything was at stake, contrary to the belief that nothing was.
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