Luis Enrique’s side adjusted at half-time and managed to control the spaces better in the second period, which allowed them to take the important three points
Barcelona beat Real Madrid in an intense Clásico that consisted of two very different halves. Luis Enrique’s side adjusted at half-time and managed to control the spaces better in the second period, which allowed them to take the important three points.
Barcelona started the match well. They were defending in a shape reminiscent of a 4-4-2, with one of the front three dropping deeper to provide cover. This worked brilliantly during the first 20-25 minutes, Barcelona’s lines were close enough to each other and Real Madrid was struggling to get into the game.
Problems started to appear after the bright start. Real Madrid’s best chances came from one of the front three easily losing the ball. When none of the three men up front got back in time to defend, Real Madrid found numerical superiorities out wide and got to dominate the central areas that were vacated by Rakitic who had to provide cover out wide. The image below shows the same: Rakitic and Alves are covering the wide areas and Messi doesn’t make enough effort to close down the gigantic space that opens up.
When Barcelona got to defend in their shape, there weren’t problems, but the shape was broken down too easily and the lines spread. A turning point was around the 30-minute mark, when Neymar had a golden opportunity to take Barcelona 2-0 ahead after a corner, but Real Madrid scored from the following counter. Below is an image of the defensive disorganization in Ronaldo’s 1-1 goal. Alba and Mathieu have switched spots as they have rushed back to defend after the corner, and Mascherano has dropped to the defense line. Both he and Alba make a mistake: Mascherano rushes to cover Ronaldo and Alba tries to pressure Modric who has the ball. Benzema makes a brilliant run behind Mascherano’s back. As Benzema makes his run, Ronaldo loses Mascherano and taps the Frenchman’s pass into the net.
Towards the end of the 1st half Barcelona’s defensive shape only got worse: they lost too many balls, didn’t press efficiently and left wide open spaces between the lines for Real Madrid to exploit. Below is one of the visitors’ most dangerous attacks, which started from a lost ball in the attack and would have ended in a Ronaldo tap-in if it wasn’t for Piqué’s brilliant tackle on Bale.
The end of the 1st half was more or less panicky from Barcelona, and the half-time whistle didn’t come a moment too soon for the home side that was struggling. In short, Piqué and Mathieu’s immense defending was what allowed Barcelona to go to half-time on level terms.