Thursday night held a special result in store for Barcelona who overcame all odds to see off Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg. The 1-0 win on the night was made possible through an Eder Militao own goal in the first half, forced by Franck Kessie’s play.
Barcelona were dominated on all fronts on the night. They recorded just four shots on the night, yet created more big chances than the hosts. It was a night of clinical attack and resilient defence and something many would call anti-Barcelona football.
The result now puts pressure on Real Madrid who have to play two more Clasicos this season, both at Spotify Camp Nou.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points from Barcelona’s 1-0 win over Real Madrid in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal tie.
1. A golden result
There is little doubt that Real Madrid were the favourites heading into Thursday night’s clash. The venue, form and fitness, all favoured Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
Xavi maintained in his pre-match press conference that his men were going to Madrid to win. Yet, with Pedri, Robert Lewandowski, Andreas Christensen and Ousmane Dembele all out injured, the chances appeared slim.
To come out of such a clash with a 1-0 result away from home is massive for the Catalans. For starters, they take advantage heading into the home leg of the tie. Yet, there is a superseding element of importance attached to the result.
Xavi’s men entered the Clasico on a two-game losing streak. The Blaugrana were vulnerable on the night, for the weight of their European elimination and the loss to Almeria was fresh on them.
Yet, for ninety minutes, the Catalans held their own with no nerves on show. There was no crack in their armour despite their poor run heading into the game, a testament to the improving mentality under Xavi.
Last night’s win may not be Barcelona’s most beautiful win of the season. In fact, it was very far off from such a title. Yet, it was worth its weight in gold.
2. Defence of the highest quality
Real Madrid’s inability to find an equaliser against Xavi’s men was not for a lack of chances. The Merengues dominated possession on the night, and the statistics justify the same. A win at Santiago Bernabeu was only possible because of the Catalan defence and their flawless performance.
For Barcelona to have 35% of the possession across ninety minutes is unheard of. Los Blancos took a whopping 13 shots including six on target with their mammoth possession. Only one of these attacks culminated in a big chance, showing the dominance of Barça’s backline.
Ronald Araujo delivered an absolute masterclass at right-back, completely nullifying Vinicius Jr’s impact. For long spells, the Brazilian seemed pocketed and out of the game. The young phenom failed to record a single shot on goal and fell prey to the Uruguayan’s thirteen defensive actions.
Meanwhile, Jules Kounde’s performance was textbook perfect. The French centre-back enjoyed arguably his best-ever performance in a Blaugrana shirt as he dominated Karim Benzema in the box.
He made a staggering 11 clearances, blocked one shot and made two interceptions. Further, he won 100% of his aerial duels and a ground duel on the night.
Andreas Christensen’s absence was not felt on the night either, for Marcos Alonso filled the void with perfection. The Spaniard’s display was no less commendable as he made 21 defensive contributions including ten clearances at the Santiago Bernabeu.
3. Advantage Barcelona
There is a month before the two teams face off in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal. Looking towards the game at Camp Nou, it is difficult to get past the supposition that the Catalans are favourites.
Pedri, Dembele and Lewandowski are all expected to return to complete fitness ahead of the anticipated clash. Having a presumably full-strength squad at his disposal and the crowd behind his back, Xavi will not have many excuses if he loses out on a spot in the final.
The work is far from done. Real Madrid are the last club in the world to write off, irrespective of the situation and form. A difficult ninety minutes await the league leaders at home, but the odds are in their favour. All of a sudden, a domestic treble does not sound very far off at all.