Well, that was rather anticlimactic. Two months after the first meeting of the season between Real Madrid and Barcelona was postponed because of political unrest in Spain, the blood rivals finally took to the field for Wednesday’s hotly-anticipated Clásico — and promptly battled to a scoreless draw.
Despite the presence of all-planet attackers such as Barca’s Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez and Real’s Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, neither team could find the breakthrough over 90 minutes at the Barcelona’s Camp Nou Stadium. Actually, that’s not completely accurate. Bale did manage to deposit the ball past home keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen late in the second half, only for the apparent match-winner to be nullified by the video assistant referee:
It was close, but it was also the correct call. Still, the visitors could be forgiven for considering themselves unlucky on a night where they had plenty of other chances to beat Barcelona on in front of their own supporters. Real fired 17 shots toward Ter Stegen’s goal in all, four of them on target. And while Barca controlled the majority of possession, slightly, they could only muster two on-frame efforts from their nine shots.
The contest was typically hard-fought. No surprise there. And despite the maddening lack of finishing by both sides, it was still tremendously entertaining theatre. Bale’s late effort was far from the only scoring opportunity.
In not for the performance of Ter Stegen, in fact, Real might well have taken all three points back to the capital and leapfrogged Barca — which remains La Liga’s leader on goal difference — atop the Spanish top-flight standings.
The German backstop was excellent all night. He set the tone by stoning Benzema early on, then turned a rocket of a shot from Casemiro around the post for a corner before stopping yet another powerful drive from distance, this time from Federico Valverde:
And on the one shot Ter Stegen couldn’t get to, veteran defender Gerard Pique was there to bail out his keeper by clearing another effort from Casemiro off the line.
Real Madrid was the better team, no question about it. Yet that’s not to say that Barcelona didn’t also have their moments to claim the victory. Against the run of play in the first half, Messi found Jordi Alba in space with a beautiful looping pass, only for Alba to pull his shot wide.
Just before that, Messi produced his team’s best chance of the match. Real custodian Thibaut Courtois did well to anticipate and parry away a dangerous cross, but Sergio Ramos went one better when the ball fell to Messi. With Courtois out of the net, the captain threw by his body in front of Messi’s goal-bound volley to keep the teams on level terms.
The most interesting moment of the night, however, had nothing to do with the action on the field. In the 55th minute, Catalan protesters interrupted the proceedings by throwing balls onto the pitch. It was the jailing of nine Catalan separatists back in October that postponed El Clasico in the first place. On a night when neither of these titans could break the deadlock, perhaps its fitting that that — and not a match-winning goal — turned out to be Wednesday’s must-see highlight: