Real Madrid 3 Barcelona 1
Luis Enrique was a bit too macho in his first Clasico as Barcelona coach, I reckon.
Figured he might be.
Luis Suarez started after four months out and started well, setting up Neymar for the first goal in 4 minutes.
Madrid 0 Barcelona 1.
But that was as good as it got.
Suarez crossed again from the right, a good early ball into the goalmouth but, with Casillas spreading himself, Messi guided his shot just wide from six yards.
It was a strangely spaced-out game, with not many tackles in midfield, just a couple of neat pinches by Busquets, and the returning Xavi playing keep-ball.
In 35, Marcelo advanced on Suarez\’s side and his low cross was stopped by the arm of the grounded Pique. That\’s madness at any time, let alone when you\’re 1-0 up in the Bernabeu.
The masterful Ronaldo sent Bravo the wrong way from the spot.
Then Barcelona conceded from a set-piece in 51 minutes Tony Kroos hit a deep corner kick and big Pepe headed in for 2-1.
Then, in 61, Isco nicked the ball off Iniesta near the halfway line, and with Mascherano stranded, the ball was switched sweetly to Ronaldo, then James Rodriguez, and on to Benzema, who rifled a low shot in off the post for 3-1.
Luis Enrique had dropped Pedro for Suarez, replaced Rakitic for Xavi, and, needing more size against big opponents, dropped the mobile Jordi Alba to put big Frenchman Jeremy Mathieu in at left back.
Suarez wasn\’t seen much. No surprise there. He\’s been out of competitive football since biting Chiellini in the World Cup four months ago.
Let’s face it, Barcelona took a year to get Messi and Neymar working well together, so integrating Suarez with those two was never going to be easy or quick.
Coaches often sacrifice the present to ensure a better future but Luis Enrique didn\’t do that this time. He needed a draw in this game, if he couldn\’t win it.
OK, he showed he wasn\’t scared of the European Champions but ended up losing 3-1.
That happens all the time.
The Iniesta-Xavi-Busquets midfield is a delicate piece of machinery which needs smoothly overlapping bionic full backs to keep it ticking over. He should have played Pedro and Alba, and maybe kept Rakitic in midfield for his legs.
And yet, admittedly, it wasn\’t a game of midfield running and tackling.
Both teams sat back a lot, with Modric and Kroos not trying to win the ball back.
Sky pundit Eidur Gudjohnsen, ex-Chelsea and Barcelona, made some incisive comments, explaining why his old team had been so one-dimensional: â€œI thought they played very static in attack. Everyone in position, always to feet, and little or no movement around the box.â€
I\’d backed BTS and won that bet in 35 minutes. But that was the only thing I got right.
Luis Enrique picked the wrong team.
Maybe starting Suarez wasn\’t his decision.
Is it a viable strategy to try and out-galactico the galacticos?
27th October 2014