The table doesn’t lie, but it exaggerates. Madrid have Vinicius and Benzema and Barça, with Ansu that is coming and Dembélé that is leaving, is behind at a distance that is already measured in centimeters. Or in millimeters, as in Riyadh. Madrid was better when they ran, in the first half, and suffered when their midfielders got entangled in the pressure culé, in the second and part of extra time. Barça was better with the youngsters than with the veterans, but it only gave them to improve their self-esteem and revise their forecasts upwards. Xavi has won the story. Now he has to win the games. Come close.
Unusual was the setting and classic the script of the Classic. If Madrid does not run, it dies of boredom. He enjoys when he waits and suffers when he is expected. Barça knew it and even so they offered him that game because instinct can. Elevated pressure, man, seeking quick recovery; the proper appropriation of the ball and that patience to play the partridge until the hunt. It is the unwritten law that applies, from generation to generation, from Cruyff to today. To discuss it is to condemn yourself. In patience, Barça has always beaten Madrid.
Barça’s immunity is in that first pressure. If he fails, he loses it because he is too unsheltered in the back, with too many players ahead of the ball. And Madrid have midfielders with good footing and skill to overcome those ambushes. It happened at the beginning, when Ancelotti’s team linked four well-prepared cons and badly finished off by Benzema, Vinicius and Asensio (two). Xavi’s bet was extremely risky: Alves, 38, in front of a spark, Vinicius, in a defense of four; and Ferran, fresh out of COVID and an injury, registered on the fly, without a single acclimatization match, starting from the beginning.
Vinicius gives first
A climate in which Madrid felt comfortable, had time and space and got it right on the fifth attempt, in a very unusual play. Busquets, who has made a fortune from his safety as a broom car in the center of the field, fell asleep after a simple shipment from Araujo and Benzema woke him up early, who has reeducated himself as a scorer but not as a recuperator. The rest lasted what a lightning bolt: deep pass from the Frenchman and sprint and finish on the march of Vinicius. The play was a symbol of the times in this centuries-old rivalry: Madrid’s youngsters have arrived earlier and veterans are leaving later. The Brazilian celebrated that Xavi did not bend his guard on him as was presumed. A larger representation of the canteranos farm was also expected, but at the moment of truth Gavi was the only young man of eleven. In a way it was strange, since, due to the exceptional nature of the club, they had to jump from La Masia to Vietnam without stops.
The Barça response had little to do with his catechism and a lot to do with his strange present. Luuk de Jong, a demonized and forcibly rehabilitated striker, approached the equalizer with two headshots without positioning, but ended up hitting the mark. Dembélé, that winger on someone else’s account that from time to time, between the medical part and the medical part, is at the height of its price, put a ball at the near post, Militao made a mistake in the orientation of his clearance and the rebound hit Luuk from Jong and ended up in the net after touching the stick. Without much explanation, the Dutchman has exchanged the pumpkin for the float. Magic thing.
An extreme ending
The goal was a punishment for the lack of concreteness of Madrid, which came better than it finished, which ran better than it thought. Because on the second leg another game was drawn. Xavi put Pedri in and his impact was immediate. Barça did better in pressure and depth, also because another newcomer, Abde, gave him another band. In just ten minutes Dembélé missed three opportunities, all clear, all without the aim of a Madrid asleep, recklessly confident. The French is the best weapon of this Barça, its differential fact. It justified Xavi’s plea for an impossible renewal.
At 25 ‘from the end, Barça burned its last cartridge, Ansu, the depository of its future. In that field, that of taking a swerve on the fly, Madrid is at a disadvantage. Much of his bench is between rusty and discouraged. His first change was telegraphed: Rodrygo for Asensio. It gave his team a boost. An advance of his culminated in a genius from Benzema, who with dancer’s feet made room in the area to end up sending a great shot to the post. And immediately the 1-2. Ter Stegen rejected the Frenchman’s first shot, including Carvajal’s center, but Benzema is on the loose and did not spare the third.
The Barça looked for a crazy ending, with a defense of three and with four points (Memphis was the last to arrive) and it came out. He tied with a header from Ansu. The team will live on his goals for many years. Even convalescing is a cannon. It was an all or nothing that a dominated Madrid took advantage of to finish off the task in extra time with an academy against. Casemiro prepared it and Valverde, decisive also two years ago in Arabia for that foul that was worth more than a goal to Morata, finished it. Two midfielders leading a pack against a desperate rival. Everything ended as so many times, in the hands of Courtois, lifeguard in matches of photo finish. Who said there are no galactic gatekeepers.
Pedri (45 ‘, Frenkie De Jong), Abdessamad Ezzalzouli (45 ‘, Ferrán Torres), Ansu Fati (65 ‘, Luuk de Jong), Rodrygo (67 ‘, Marco Asensio), Nico Gonzalez (77 ‘, Alves), Federico Valverde (82 ‘, Modric), Lucas Vazquez (90 ‘, Dani Carvajal), Camavinga (109 ‘, Vinicius Junior), Ferran Jutglà (109 ‘, Abdessamad Ezzalzouli)
0-1, 24 ‘: Vinicius Junior, 1-1, 40 ‘: Luuk de Jong, 1-2, 71 ‘: Benzema, 2-2, 82 ‘: Ansu Fati, 2-3, 97 ‘: Federico Valverde
Referee: José Luis Munuera Montero
VAR Referee: José Luis González González
Ferran Torres (22 ‘, Yellow) Alves (50 ‘, Yellow) Casemiro (74 ‘, Yellow) Federico Valverde (98 ‘, Yellow