The footballing world watched in awe – if not surprise – as Real Madrid were ripped apart at home to Barcelona. The game that has been billed as Ronaldo vs Messi for so many years was dominated by Barca’s other attacking superstars as Luis Suarez and Neymar fired them to victory.
It served as a huge blow for Madrid boss Rafa Benitez, as his players were all over the place and up against an extremely organised performance from their biggest rivals.
Lionel Messi was back from injury but – as expected – started on the bench. The favourite to win the next Ballon d’Or watched as his team mates set about their rivals, before coming on in the second half for Ivan Rakitic.
Many are tipping Neymar as a future Ballon d’Or winner – and it’s easy to see why. He was fantastic, with the vision and trickery to rival any player in the world. Those attributes were on display against Madrid, but it was his Uruguayan team mate who opened the scoring after eleven minutes.
After some brilliant build up play, young midfielder Sergi Roberto threaded a fantastic ball through to Suarez who stroked it into the far corner with the outside of his right foot.
It was the 20th Clásico in a row that Barca had scored in, and they weren’t finished. Despite a strong penalty appeal from Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo, Barca stayed in control and finally doubled their lead in the 39th minute. Andres Iniesta played a superb ball through for Neymar, who appeared to be just offside, and the Brazilian slotted home with his shot going underneath Keylor Navas. Suddenly Madrid fans realised it was going to be a long way back, and Ronaldo looked particularly annoyed with his side’s plight.
It should have been 3-0 at half time after Neymar went on a mazy run down the left, combined with Suarez, and then cut it back for the ex-Liverpool man but his shot was blocked on the line by Marcelo before Raphael Varane blocked Rakitic’s follow up.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez must have been worried that the game was only going to get worse for his club, and he would have been right to be concerned. Madrid did start the second half well, and Claudio Bravo had to be alert to tip James Rodriguez’s powerful shot around the post, but just eight minutes into the second half Barca skipper Iniesta finished the game off. He played a really good ball into Neymar, who gave it back to his captain with a brilliant flick and the little Spanish genius rifled the ball high into the Madrid net.
As if being 3-0 down wasn’t enough torment for Los Blancos, the man that many say is the best player to have ever played the game stood on the sideline prepared to come on for Barcelona. Luis Enrique was showing no mercy as he sent on Messi for Rakitic.
Within around 10 minutes of coming on, Messi could have had a goal of his own but Varane deflected his close range effort wide. Unsung hero Claudio Bravo then pulled off another super save to prevent Cristiano Ronaldo, who had been picked out by Gareth Bale, from putting Madrid back into the game.
Messi was then heavily involved to round off a great night for Barcelona – laying the ball of to Suarez who waited for Navas to commit himself before dinking it past him into the back of the net.
Two moments following that goal summed up the game for the global audience. First, Iniesta was afforded a standing ovation from a large number of the home fans as he was replaced by Munir. He is a class act on the pitch, and Madrid fans showed their appreciation for his talents. Then, in the 85th minute, Isco showed his frustration by kicking Neymar, and received a straight red for the challenge.
As the final whistle was blown, Barca fans were jubilant in celebration and extremely appreciative of their heroes. Meanwhile, Madrid fans were seething and waving their white handkerchiefs, which is their way of showing their displeasure and anger.
You have to feel that if Barca keep up this level of performance, they will be unstoppable once again this season, but Madrid need to play much, much better to even consider themselves as contenders.