Six months later, Real Madrid returned to the top of the table and at the expense of its two great rivals. When a storm hit Valdebebas, they defeated FC Barcelona 2-1 to beat Atlético de Madrid. It may only be for one night, Diego Simeone’s team travels to Betis on Sunday, but it was one night: wet and wild, the ball flying from one side to the other and until the end, goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen coming up and Ilaix Moriba slammed a shot off the crossbar on the frenzied final play.
The goal frame was still shaking when the whistle sounded, and also some players, frozen and forced to change their shirts during a Clásico that unfolded between thunder, lightning and torrential rain, the wind whipped.
In the end, the goals from Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos in the first half hour were enough but that was only part of the story, Óscar Mingueza’s goal scoring a final half hour that would be called frantic were it not for the fact that the whole had been.
Madrid, however, resisted, and not only here, but throughout the season. This was another resurrection for a manager who has something almost mystical about him, in a place that seemed unattainable until recently.
Atlético was at the top for six months and disappeared into the distance, but Madrid walked a tightrope to now rise above their neighbors. Above Barcelona too. Ten games have come out without defeat; Nineteen games Barcelona were undefeated until they got here.
As these two chased Atlético, knowing they couldn’t afford mistakes, the obligation eventually turned into an opportunity, and on a lively start here Madrid seized it. The first two goals proved the value of the will to run, a portrait of a pair of men who should be the future of the club. Also, in truth, they offered an unflattering portrait of the Barcelona defense.
A brilliant opening goal began with Fede Valverde, part man, part locomotive, starting from deep inside. By the time he had picked up speed, stopping him was difficult anyway; stopping him by moving a leg in his rude direction was even more difficult, but that’s what Jordi Alba did. Swiftly passing, Valverde found Lucas Vázquez, whose ball was met by an impressive shot from Benzema.
Open on the left, Barcelona opened then on the right, Vinícius finally fell to the edge of the area.
Kroos launched the free-kick and his shot hit Sergiño Dest, changed course and entered, Alba could not clear her head on the line.
Barcelona did have opportunities, Lionel Messi launched a cross that Ousmane Dembélé should have scored.
Dembélé also slammed the ball into the area before Messi doubled a corner against the post and was later blocked by Thibaut Courtois. And yet, the game was where Madrid wanted and if anyone should have added to the scoreboard before the break, it was them. In another race, Valverde cleared and crashed into the post, and Ter Stegen recovered somewhat to save Vázquez’s track.
The second part brought a recovery, the Barcelona ball and the territory as well. And although Madrid seemed happy that way, aware of the vulnerability of the visitors and willing to tear them through blankets of rain so thick they could barely be seen, Barcelona fell back in time. Antoine Griezmann jumped over a center from Alba and Mingueza overtook Courtois.
Another Messi-Alba combination could have brought a second shortly thereafter, but at the edge of the six-yard box, Alba’s choice was the wrong one.
Barcelona pushed Madrid back deeper and deeper, but even from there the threat remained, Luka Modric sending Vinícius running away. A mess was made with that breakup and the same could be said for Kroos’ plummeting headbutt shortly after. Suddenly, Messi was on top of the other end, doubling a shot. This Classic was a lot of fun; unfortunately, it was also coming to an end.
Still, Barcelona chased the tie, but time was running out and it was soon over. Martin Braithwaite went down and appealed for a penalty – “completely clear,” Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman called it, and then headed wide. On the last dramatic and desperate play, Ilaix Moriba crashed into the crossbar, Ter Stegen’s shot was blocked and Alba sent the ball some more, a wild night that got a wild finish.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism