Real Madrid 0 Barcelona 1
Ivan Rakitic 26
During the first half of this game, I’m thinking, “I’ve forgotten that football can be as fabulous as this!”
When Luis Suarez fires a bullet shot, Thibaut Courtois gets down ultrafast to save it. His reaction seems preposterous, entirely inappropriate for a man of six foot seven,
Real winger Vinicius, an 18-year-old, looks promising. He’s just been called up by the Brazilian national team.
It’s the best football I’ve seen all season and now Barcelona fashion a sublimely simple attack.
Messi is in centrefield, he slips the ball to Rakitic on his right, and the Croatian’s pass into the run of right back Sergio Roberto is deceptive because the move seems routine and does not look menacing at all.
At that moment the Real Madrid back line is 35 yards from their goal and looks secure.
But when Rakitic plays it wide he’s not asking Roberto to run. That would have been too obvious.
Instead, his soft pass asks for a return ball and gives Roberto time to see where Rakitic wants the return pass, and as Courtois comes out to the edge of his six-yard box, and Ramos dives in to block, this silky magician lifts his shot sweetly over the keeper and it bounces across the line for 0-1.
It looks so simple. And it is.
If you deploy world class skills so intelligently, you can score goals that can’t be stopped and make football look easy.
A while after that, Barca produce a majestic passage of cruising keep-ball that emphasises their superiority.
Then comes further thuggery by Sergio Ramos. the butcher of Kiev, who crippled Mo Salah with a cage-fighter’s body-slam in the Champions League Final.
In 45, when Ramos smacks Messi in the face with his elbow, the referee’s reaction is amazing. He should send Ramos off but he blows his whistle for half-time!
Even though we know that Real Madrid are always backed by the King, the banks, the government and the referees.
Ramos must hold the world record for smashing footballers in the head and face with his elbows.
Second half isn’t so good, Isco comes on for Casemiro, and by the time Carvajal runs five feet past the ball to bodycheck Messi, I was silently singing, “Just because you’re losing…”
Benzema does nothing and Barca know they don’t need to score again and by then it’s all about the clock. A siege continues, crosses from both flanks by Real, lots of shots blocked.
Barcelona are 12 points clear in La Liga and will be champions.
Atletico are second, Real third.
Without Ronaldo they’re not even the top club in Madrid.
This victory at the Bernabeu puts Barcelona ahead in Clasicos for the first time ever.
Historically, it’s Barcelona 96 Real Madrid 95.