Vinicius and Mariano supply the passion in El Clásico
The depression which had hung heavy over Real Madrid since the team’s elimination from the Copa del Rey vanished into thin air during a vibrant second half display in Sunday’s Clásico. The result puts Zidane’s team back at the top of the table. I highlight the second half performance because they spent the first half at the mercy of a below par Barça who wasted three clear chances. Lacking in vitality, sluggish and without Messi at his best, the visitors posed enough of a threat to keep the Bernabéu quiet. Two saves from Courtois kept the team alive during an opening 45 minutes in which the only incidents of note were a couple of Vinicius breakaways which came to nothing because there was no one to support him when he reached Barça’s penalty area.
Game of two halves
It all changed after the break. The passion returned to Madrid’s game and everyone started taking the game seriously – not just Vinicius. Isco had a shot tipped over the bar and a header cleared off the line. That unnerved Setién who immediately changed the geometric shape of his team. On came Braithwaite who, in his first two moves, fomented panic in the home team’s ranks. Vinicius’ goal came in the following move; it had a touch of luck about it – it looked like he was trying to pass to the back post but the ball took a deflection off Piqué and was diverted in past Ter Stegen. It was just reward for Madrid’s best forward player on the night, the only one who seemed determined to win the game from the first minute to the last.
Mariano thrills the Bernabéu
Once Madrid were in front, it was Barça who sunk into a depression, suddenly looking like a bunch of shipwreck survivors – even Messi couldn’t help out. And that was how it remained until the dying moments when Zidane made a couple of astute substitutions, crowned by a stoppage-time goal from Mariano, the surprise inclusion in the squad list - at Jovic’s expense. He replaced Benzema on 89 minutes and with his first touch, left Umtiti in his wake to make it 2-0. It was a victory worth four points, Mijatovic commented on Carrusel - because it’s three points plus it gives Madrid a superior goal average. It was a victory over Barça and also over the recent pessimism. A victory to savour.
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