It was sweet revenge for Barcelona in the 282nd El Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday as they beat Real Madrid 4-0. That result did not flatter Barcelona a bit as Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois made six excellent saves to keep the scoreline below the magical five.
Two goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and one each for Ronald Araújo and Ferran Torres ensured the Blaugrana got adequate revenge for the 2-1 loss in the first stanza of the league last October. Real Madrid started without their talismanic goal scorer, Karim Benzema, and the evidence of the showing from Carlo Ancelotti’s team showed the Frenchman is the most important cog in the Real Madrid engine.
Ancelotti chose to start in a 4-2-4 formation which gave immediate midfield control to the Sergio Busquets-led Barcelona and they threatened from the off.
The first goal arrived on 28 minutes when Barcelona contract rebel, Ousmane Dembele, accelerated past Nacho in the left-back slot and his cross was met by Aubameyang, who steered his header past Courtois.
In the 36th minute, Federico Valverde broke through the centre of midfield and passed to Vinicius who went face-to-face with Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The Brazilian seems to have been tripped on first viewing but the referee waved play on and Barcelona broke to the other end and won a corner.
Ronald Araujo connected with a header on Dembele’s out-swinging corner to double Barcelona’s lead. The league leaders were out of sorts at the back with David Alaba and Eder Militao panicky and making uncharacteristic mistakes. The first half ended with Barcelona bossing ball possession – 63 per cent, with five shots on target.
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Ancelotti replaced Toni Kroos with Eduardo Camavinga while Mariano came on for Daniel Carvajal but these changes did not swing the momentum in their favour as Barcelona quickly took the match totally away from the home side. Two minutes in, Torres scored the third after some neat passing and an Aubameyang flick for the assist.
The misfortune was not over as six minutes later, Real Madrid defenders stopped for an apparent flag but Aubameyang continued playing and chipped Courtois for the fourth. The play was stopped as the referee consulted with the VAR booth, who gave the goal, much to Madrid players’ consternation.
In the 59th minute, Aubameyang had a chance for his hat-trick when he was found by Torres in the box but the Gabonese side-footed the finish wide. Courtois, who lifted the February Player award before the match had to make another save from Torres as it looked like Barcelona could score every time they came forward.
It was Dembele’s turn to miss from 12 yards in the 74th minute. After wrestling Militao to the ground, he screwed his effort wide. Courtois was then forced into another save from Memphis Depay in the 78th minute. David Alaba forced Ter Stegen into a save with a hard volley inside the box as Real Madrid sought a consolation.
But there was to be no consolation for the league leaders, who showed all their next opponents how toothless they can be without Benzema. Real Madrid are still top of La Liga with 66 points from 29 matches while Barcelona are in third place with 54 points and a game in hand.
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