In today’s Spanish Football’s classic match-up between Real Madrid and Barcelona the 93,426 stadium fans, and billions across the globe, were treated to an intense match with several scoring opportunities but no break-out events or performances.
Gareth Bale’s score, disallowed for an alleged offside by defender Ferland Mendy, was the only ball that saw the back of the net, but Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos cleared shots nearly off the goal line and plenty of shots were barely blocked in time inside the two boxes. For most of the furiously contested match, most acts were ultimately fruitless.
The officiating of referee Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernandez was spotty and mostly favored the hosts (5 yellows for Real Madrid to 3 for Barca). Unfortunately for Real the ref missed a clear penalty pulldown (by the jersey) of Rafael Varane by Ivan Rakitik in the Barca box. Even more unfortunate was that mysteriously it was not reviewed by VAR despite multiple angle replays by the broadcasters which showed the infraction was a several-seconds-long tug and pull down.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane managed to keep his rituals intact, opting to make substitutions at the eightieth minute, as if that would be helpful, and keeping the likes of Luka Modric, and Vinicius Junior on the bench in favor of Isco, Karim Benzema, and (albeit a well-performing) Federico Valverde. On the opposite bench, Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona’s coach, walked the sidelines seemingly at odds trying to find the formula to take advantage of home turf and ultimately sat down for the latter spells of the match.
In the end, Barca remained atop the La Liga table by a plus-two goal differential after 17 competition matches.
Outside the stadium the Catalan protesters were held mostly at bay and only managed to clog up a couple of exits with smoke, necessitating what was reported as an otherwise orderly fan departure from the Camp Nou.
Among the stats for the history books—Real Madrid has now gone seven La Liga matches without beating their archrivals (this excludes victories in Copa del Rey and Super Cup games); Ramos is now the all-time leader in clasico appearances with 43; Real coach Zidane has now gone unbeaten in the five matches at the Camp Nou he has been in charge of Real Madrid; and finally, the last scoreless El Clasico was in 2002, or seventeen years ago.