SHAFAQNA –It is four months since Luis Suarez sunk his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini and absented himself from football for his brief sabbatical. On Saturday evening at the Bernabeu Stadium he re-emerged and time away had not withered him nor has psychiatric counselling dimmed his spirit. But good though he is, he cannot yet conjure miracles.
He may have added intensity, ferocity and guile to an already-formidable Barcelona attack – but as a collective unit on Saturday night they did not have the tools to stop Cristiano and Co.
The world’s most richly-decorated football match, which even in the absence of the injured Gareth Bale, still boasts a comfortable majority of the world’s top ten footballers, produced a spell-binding match of attacking intent which further suggests the balance of power in football’s universe in tilting in favour of Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo at present.
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Luis Suarez is tackled during a frustrating El Clasico for Barcelona’s new striker as Real Madrid win at the Bernabeu on Saturday evening
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring during the El Clasico clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday evening
Real Madrid vs Barcelona: Big Match Stats
Lionel Messi (right) looks frustrated during the El Clasico match as Real Madrid’s Ronaldo (left) beat his Barcelona opponent on Saturday
Messi struggled in the match and failed to score this chance against Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas on Saturday evening at the Bernabeu
Messi couldn’t get a goal past Real goalkeeper Casillas but his counterpart Ronaldo managed to score from the penalty spot
Real Madrid were welcomed to the match by a huge crowd of fans outside the Bernabeu ahead of their win over rivals Barcelona
Karim Benzema, scorer of the third goal, left the pitch to a standing ovation having led the way to a comprehensive victory which might have been more embarrassing for Barca. Of course, Ronaldo was a key contributor, as was Isco while Luka Modric and Toni Kroos meanwhile were simply magnificently neatly efficient at the base of midfield.
And while Suarez shone whilst his fitness allowed, Messi and Neymar flickered only in moments, Xavi looked a 34-year-old short of game time and Andres Iniesta made a rare, awful error to gift Real their third.
Indeed, when even with the game effectively over and the celebrations in full swings the Bernabeu groaned angrily at Marcelo for failing to play in Ronaldo for a fourth goal, Real’s dominance was clear. The game might be won but the crowd wanted more; they wanted humiliation. They contended themselves with a chorus of ‘Viva Espana.’ It was not a night for Catalan pride.
They will comfort themselves that they do at least have Suarez. He was excellent, given the time he has been away. ‘I’m happy to be back playing,’ he said afterwards. ‘It’s a big relief and I’m happy that the time has passed. It’s a bittersweet feeling because of the result but this side has come back many a time. ‘It is very difficult to play here but I did the things that I could. Everyone knows how clasicos are played, the first few minutes are hard, but football is like that. They played well on the counter after we went ahead and they killed the game.’
After a tumultuous opening, Real Madrid did indeed kill the game. The ‘King of Kings’ banner celebrating Real Madrid’s ten European Cups had barely been put away, the music had only just died down, when the tiny knot of Barcelona fans were celebrating in the far corner of the Bernabeu inside three minutes.
The goal sparked a frenetic response from Real Madrid. ‘I was surprised at the level at which we could play so soon after the Liverpool game,’ said a satisfied Carlo Anecotti. ‘This is a serious team and they sacrifice themselves for each other.’ Indeed, this side is much more than a collection of galaticos; Ancelotti has created a balance that is truly impressive.
Even Leo Messi, cowed on the night, seemed unnerved, crashing into Toni Kroos early on and earning a yellow card, the first of four Barca would accumulate in that first half. Ronaldo was at the heart of Real’s early best efforts, crossing on 11 minutes for Benzema, whose header crashed off the bar and whose strike from rebound blazed over.
The game was infused with attacking talent, but the finishing didn’t always match. Suarez sent in a delicious cross and Messi, from six yards out, missed. Neymar, similarly, mis-kicked from four yards out.
Neymar gave Barcelona the lead after just four minutes with Suarez providing the assist at the Bernabeu
Luis Suarez delighted to finally make his Barcelona debut
Neymar and Messi celebrate Barcelona taking the lead against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Saturday evening
Barcelona held the lead until the 35th minute after Neymar’s early goal in the El Clasico tie against Real Madrid
Neymar celebrates his goal against Real Madrid but Barcelona could not hold on to their lead in the La Liga clash
Ronaldo looks frustrated after Real Madrid go 1-0 down but the former Manchester United player soon got his own goal
Real Madrid had to re-establish their grip on the game and they did so through right back Marcelo driving into the penalty area on 34 minutes. His cross induced Gerard Pique to collapse to the ground and handle the ball. The penalty was inevitable as was the finish from Ronaldo: a crisp, unstoppable striker into the bottom right hand corner, his 16th this season in La Liga and we’re not even out of October.
Barcelona hadn’t conceded in the league this season, a record always unlikely to survive this outing and after the break Real were re-invigorated, flying forward on the counter attack on 47 minutes as Benzema released Ronaldo, with Pique sliding in to block for the corner.
No matter. Kroos trotted away to take the kick with precision that was signposted for Pepe at the far post. The Portuguese connected, heading the ball firmly into the bottom corner and the Bernabeu was itself again, full of noise and confidence.
Ronaldo takes his penalty in the 35th minute to bring Real Madrid level in the El Clasico tie against Barcelona on Saturday
Ronaldo celebrates in typical style at the Bernabeu as the former Manchester United star equalises against Barcelona
Ronaldo goes to his usual celebration after scoring against Barcelona to bring the teams level before half-time on Saturday evening
Barca did not immediately retreat. Sergio Ramos needed a crucial sliding clearance to prevent Messi from connecting with a pull back and Jeremy Mathieu hit a remarkable strike from 35 yards which Casillas dived to save spectacularly.
But the flow of the game was with Carlo Ancelotti’s men. Barca were creaking and Iniesta as good as confirmed the fact with an uncharacteristic lazy touch on the hour which allowed Isco to break and feed Ronaldo, who played in James. The Colombian touched the ball on to Benzema, who finished quite splendidly, pulling his shot across goal and past Claudio Bravo.
Barca’s suddenly appeared terribly brittle. Mascherano’s fine sliding challenge prevented Ronaldo adding to the scoring on 65 minutes. Dani Alves needed to do the same again, leaving the world player of the year in complaining, crumpled heap. Suarez departed on 68 minutes: he had run his course, done his best but ultimately in vain. He will come again, but Barca’s unbeaten record in Liga is over and their superiority complex severely punctured.
Real Madrid players react after Pepe gave them the lead against Barcelona on Saturday evening at the Bernabeu
Pepe (right) was able to gift Real Madrid an important lead against Barcelona in the El Clasico showdown on Saturday
Karim Benzema gives Real Madrid a 3-1 lead at the Bernabeu by slotting home beyond Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo
Real Madrid’s Ronaldo and Benzema celebrate sealing the El Clasico win at the Bernabeu in front of their own fans against Barcelona
Sky Sports shows La Liga as part of an unrivalled autumn of sport that includes Premier League, F1, ATP tennis, Autumn International rugby and UEFA Champions League
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