Clásico falls flat as Real Madrid fail to make good on dominance

Game finishes scoreless for the first time in over 17 years

Real Madrid central defender  Sergio Ramos and  Raphael Varane keep a tight rein on  Barcelona’s  Lionel Messi during the Clasico La Liga match at the Nou  Camp. Photograph:   Lluis Gene/aFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid central defender Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane keep a tight rein on Barcelona’s Lionel Messi during the Clasico La Liga match at the Nou Camp. Photograph: Lluis Gene/aFP via Getty Images

 

Barcelona 0 Real Madrid 0

It was not supposed to be like this. The game that always delivers didn’t, the clásico ending 0-0 for the first time in 17 years. The biggest club rivalry in world football, a meeting that has produced 126 goals in the last decade alone, produced none here.

Only Gareth Bale found the net, but his second-half effort was ruled out, leaving Real Madrid and Barcelona to take a point each, still level at the top of the league table. At the final whistle there was timid applause, a few whistles too, but mostly there was quiet – only punctured by the PA announcer repeatedly telling supporters not to leave out the south end of the stadium, where smoke was rising over the stands.

Perhaps there had been protests out there, during a game that had been politically charged, a huge banner before the game asking Spain to “sit and talk” with Catalan political leaders. Little else happened inside except a moment in the second half when beach balls were sent flying, and there was not as much going on down on the pitch as there is usually either. This was an oddly flat occasion, played 53 days after it was originally scheduled. No one found a way through, and as time ticked away no one looked likely to either.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois comes out to make a save from Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto during the game at the Nou Camp. Photograph: Jose Jordan/AFP via Getty Images
Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois comes out to make a save from Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto during the game at the Nou Camp. Photograph: Jose Jordan/AFP via Getty Images

There was an initial burst from Barcelona but Madrid dominated most of the first half. The home side struggled to find a way out from deep and on the rare occasions they did they found Casemiro waiting for them. Either side of him, Toni Kroos controlled and Federico Valverde ran, dashing through midfield and arriving at the edge of the area. Isco, too, was involved, while Bale peeled right and Karim Benzema dropped into space to play. Chances came, an appeal for a penalty, although few of them were really clear cut.

Valverde produced two volleys, one veering wide, the other saved by Marc-André ter Stegen. Casemiro bent one just past the post and had a header that Gerard Piqué had to clear off the line. Clément Lenglet, whose challenge on Raphaël Varane drew protests from Madrid, had to block another effort.

Real Madrid defender Dani Carvajal looks at Barcelona’s supporters waving Catalan pro-independence ‘Estelada’ flags during the Clasico match at the Nou Camp. Photograph: Jose Jordan/AFP via Getty Images
Real Madrid defender Dani Carvajal looks at Barcelona’s supporters waving Catalan pro-independence ‘Estelada’ flags during the Clasico match at the Nou Camp. Photograph: Jose Jordan/AFP via Getty Images

And yet, as uncomfortable as they were, relieved to be level as they might have been, and as absent as their midfield had been, Barcelona had opportunities and maybe even clearer ones. If Piqué cleared off the line from Casemiro, Sergio Ramos cleared off the line from Lionel Messi after Thibaut Courtois’s palmed clearance fell to him and one stunning Messi pass, dropped behind the defence and at Jordi Alba’s feet, seven yards out. But he scuffed the volley horribly – as if he couldn’t believe it had actually reached him. Then, a minute before the break, Luis Suárez’s cut back just evaded Messi.

There were two more opportunities early in the second half, first Messi and then Suárez swiping at the ball and failing to make proper contact within a minute of each other and from a combined distance of perhaps 15 yards. By then Valverde had seen a shot deflected wide, drawing frustrated, fearful whistles from Barcelona’s fans. Then came a brief interruption as dozens of yellow beach balls were thrown on to the pitch, followed by chants of “Visca Catalunya”.

The game went on, Barcelona stepping up, Antoine Griezmann far more involved now, but they were imprecise in possession and vulnerable when they lost it. When Valverde escaped into space, Bale might have opened the scoring but thumped into the side netting. Soon after he thought he had scored from close range. The linesman’s flag was up and while the wait was a long one, the decision was confirmed: Ferland Mendy, who had provided the pass, was fractionally ahead of the last man.

Suárez bent a shot wide, and both teams made changes. Griezmann had grown into this game but was gone with 10 minutes left, while Rodrygo and Luka Modric came on for Valverde and Isco. Nothing much changed, nothing much happened. – Guardian

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