The last time world witnessed an El Clasico clash ended in a goalless draw was way back on November 23, 2002. It was the same venue where last night’s encounter took place – Nou Camp. Even though the match ended in a goalless, the clash of Titans in 2002 is one of the most ill-tempered matches ever in the history of El Clasico.

The home fans as the home fans poured abuse on Luis Figo, who had moved between the eternal rivals in 2000 as the first of Florentino Perez’s Galactico signings. Figo’s first visit to Camp Nou was a rough ride, but the next visit was a rougher experience – every time he went near the flag he was pelted with objects including lighters, coins, a bottle of whisky and even the severed head of a pig. The atmosphere was heated up. The game ended in a goalless draw.

Since then, 6235 days passed. The baton was passed to a new generation of stars, who dazzled on the pitch to keep the intensity of El Clasico intact. At one point, it was more about Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo than Barcelona vs Real Madrid. For a decade, their rivalry kept each and every football fan at the edge of their seat. Last year Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid, which might have taken the sheen-off a bit from El Clasico, but the intensity still exists.

The match was scheduled to October 26 but had been postponed because of fears of civil unrest in Catalonia. Both teams shared the same hotel in the lead-up to the game and travelled to the ground together, two hours before kick-off amid security concerns. While several thousand Catalan independence protesters gathered outside the stadium, there was little suggestion that their presence was going to place the fixture in doubt. There was however an interruption to the game early in the second half, with yellow balls raining down on the field to briefly delay proceedings.

Outside the pitch, violence broke through. At least 46 people have been injured as police clashed with protesters outside the stadium. The Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s autonomous police force, charged and launched foam projectiles at the protesters as they set containers on fire in the streets.

Still, on the pitch, the game was played with the right spirit and no ugly incidents happened. Even though, Rafael Varane was manhandled in the first half by fouls that weren’t called.

Lenglet stamped his cleat on Varane’s thigh in the box before Rakitic pulled his shirt down in the area shortly after. Then, he out-leapt Alba at the far post, and Alba brushed rushed his hand on Varane’s face for no particular reason.

The game went on.

Keeping in mind Barcelona’s purple-patch at Camp Nou over the years, Real Madrid displayed a better show than the hosts.

Zinedine Zidane had emphasized on compactness, which paid rich dividends in the end. His midfield was in a diamond shape with Isco at the top, just behind Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. Zidane opted for experience rather than surfacing young guns in such a high-voltage match. Both Benzema and Bale broke through more often aided by Isco. Real created a lot of chaos inside the Barca penalty area against which the hosts failed to cope up.

Bale received the ball from the centre on the left-flank, but his shot hit the nets and minutes later his goal was disallowed due to offside. Isco linked-up well with Benzema to crack down the defensive lines of Barcelona – drifted wide to cancel out Sergi Roberto and Rakitic. It allowed Bale to keep the centre-backs engaged.  Frankie de Jong was isolated o deal with Toni Kroos, Fede Valverde and Casemiro.

Real won the battle in the midfield, and this helped them to dominate better.

Especially, Casemiro was at his pristine best. He was like a fort as usual and played a key role in neutralizing Lionel Messi. Whatever spaces Messi received, he was tracked down by Casemiro and stopped further progress. Again, it was not just about Messi, Casemiro was instrumental in halting the likes of Luis Suarez and de Jong. The Real midfield and forwards went up, Casemiro joined the defence to provide solidity – this is nothing but a blessing for Real Madrid to have such a dynamic player in the team. Casemiro hardly leaves any loopholes in the backline.

A yellow card while tackling the dangerous Suarez means he would miss the next match, but that would not bother Zidane much as at that crucial juncture of the match he saved his team from a near disaster.

Casemiro was the man of the match and rightly so. He helped to feel the Los Blancos free to advance forward. Real looked a much better unit than Barcelona. The only thing, which Real failed to do scoring goals – but at the end of the match, a Real Madrid fan would be satisfied the way Los Blancos dominated at Camp Nou.

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