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It was Madrid who ended up giving a guard of honour to Rakitic

It was Madrid who ended up giving a guard of honour to Rakitic

It happened in the 54th minute of the match. Some neat skill from Busquets started the move off and he threaded a ball through to Rakitic who breaks forward. Casemiro is nowhere to be seen and Kovacic decides to pursue Messi creating even more space for his Croatian counterpart. The Barça midfielder pushes the ball wide to Sergi Roberto who has broken away from Marcelo and has time to pick out his pass to Luis Suárez, free in the box who drives the ball home. A finely worked goal but made so much easier for Barça with Rakitic being allowed to maraud through from his own half.

Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona celebrates with Luis Suarez after Suarez scored their 1st goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 23, 2017 in Madrid

Uncontested 

This was the turning point in the game in which until that stage had been reasonably evenly contested. Zidane surprised us all with his initial line-up, opting to elect Kovacic over Isco with the Croatian international being entrusted to keep a close eye on both Busquets and then Messi. It worked for a while until tiredness kicked in and at the start of the second period Barça started to grow into the game and just when the Bernabéu crowd were starting to get restless, the opener arrived. A goal where the player in navy and claret wasn't challenged, didn't have to take on any opponents and quite simply ran forward with the ball at his feet with this move culminating in the beginning of the end for Real Madrid.

Barcelona's Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic

Talking points

The game threw up plenty of talking points. Iniesta was sublime and offered a masterclass in the art of football. Sergio Ramos was lucky to complete the 90 minutes after the referee only decreed a yellow card for his attack on Luis Suárez, with the game at 1-0. The palpable progressive loss of patience from the Bernabéu crowd for Karim Benzema. The fine display from both goalkeepers. Messi's fifteenth goal at the Bernabéu. The tactical nous from Valverde, who has crafted a less sparkling Barcelona side but an extremely efficient on nonetheless. The considerable advantage the Catalan side hold at the top of the league table.

Happy Christmas to you all.

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