People kept on saying that the hype of El Clasico has ebbed away because the new generation would take time to reach the level of last decade and script another legendary rivalry like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Those who were trapped by the golden memories of the last decade found it tough to catch their breath because they finally realized, no matter in which era an El Clasico would be played, the amount of intensity would never diminish.

The Los Blancos traveled to the den of their arch-rivals – Camp Nou – as the underdogs: The home team was in a much better shape after the comprehensive victory in the Champions League.

The defeat against the newly promoted Cadiz was a dull affair and it may happen, but after the defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium, it was not an accident; but the lack of coordination was evident. As usual, the manager of Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane came under fire; but he stood for his players and took the responsibility for those defeats on himself.

Zidane had injury issues. Especially on the right-back position, where he experimented with Mendy the other day against Shakhtar. It failed and he was left with the choice to play Nacho Fernandez and then when Nacho left with niggles, Lucas Vazquez was introduced. The task to tame Ansu Fati was the prime target and each of them had to give their best.

Thankfully, Sergio Ramos was back in the side.

Zidane went with a 4-3-3 formation with Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Fede Valverde operating at the center of the park and Karim Benzema would be aided by two wingers: Vinicius Junior and Marco Asensio.

High-octane first half

The game took off with a flier – The first chance of a gripping game brought the breakthrough as Karim Benzema played a patient pass-through for Valverde to advance and lift a cool fifth-minute finish over Neto into the top-left corner.

Vinicius Junior blasted off target as Madrid sought a swift second, but instead, they were pegged back three minutes after going ahead when Jordi Alba raced in behind Nacho and squared for Fati to tap in.

Thibaut Courtois and Neto denied Lionel Messi and Benzema respectively at either end as an even, entertaining first half finished all square before Barca started strongly in the second period.

Fati shot across the face of goal and then Philippe Coutinho aimed a header wastefully wide from the goal-scorer’s pinpoint cross.

Both teams excelled at a rapid pace as if it was basketball – it left spaces and more of ten Barca posed a threat. Casemiro came big when it was required the most.

His tackle against Messi was like a lifeline, meanwhile, his attempted tackle earned him a yellow card, whereas, there was no contact with the feet of Messi, who reacted as if he broke his shin bone.

Zidane blocked the spaces and attacked in transitions

Zidane realized that the time has come to squeeze the spaces and stranglehold the free-flowing nature of Barcelona. The midfield started to cut off the passing lanes to Messi and Coutinho more and Barca planned to attack through the flanks where Ramos and Raphael Varane became alert enough to block the dangerous crosses.

Sergino Dest, the first-ever player from the USA to feature in an El Clasico, had a fabulous game and on the right, he was a continuous threat, but Ramos and Varane remained focused to cut off the threat as much as possible.

When the transition came, Real Madrid advanced and exploited the spaces – Sergio Busquets was a weak link and more often he was well beaten by Vinicius Junior and Asensio.  Toni Kross remained the commander in the midfield, who created chances and scripted key passes.

Lucas Vazquez, normally a winger, played a wing-back, gave his all to neutralize Fati.

The crucial moment of the game came Lenglet’s foolish, off-balance tug on Ramos encouraged an extravagant fall, alerting the VAR to the foul and allowing the visiting skipper to slide his spot-kick beyond Neto.

Real would not let this opportunity waste.

They pressurized the Barca midfield and frontline more – it left spaces and Madrid pounced on it.

Neto came to the rescue, but substitute Rodrygo Goyes split-opened the Barca defence in the stoppage time and assisted another substitute Luka Modric to make a Barcelona comeback impossible.

Barca had 60 percent of the possession in the second half but could not muster a single shot on target – kudos to the solidity and composure Zidane’s backline and midfield exhibited.

Real are on top having to win the first El Clasico of the season and at Camp Nou since 2007.

The lost momentum has been gained and hopefully, the Los Blancos don’t lose their way again!