FOR a while, Luis SuÃ¡rez must have thought his would be the perfect debut, but the feeling would prove fleeting. When the fixtures came out with the biggest game in club football scheduled the day his ban ended, he had described it as â€œdestinyâ€ and just three minutes into his Barcelona career he provided the pass that enabled Neymar to give them the lead. Eighty-seven minutes later, though, he watched from the bench as the final whistle was greeted by a roar from the BernabÃ©u after what was ultimately a comfortable Real Madrid victory.
â€œWe didnâ€™t deserve any more,â€ said the Barcelona coach, Luis Enrique.
SuÃ¡rez became the first Barcelona player to make his debut against Madrid since Steve Archibald 30 years ago. Unlike the Scot he did not score. Nor did he emerge victorious. Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe and Karim Benzema gave Madrid a 3-1 victory that could have been greater still. It puts them one point behind their rivals. For Barcelona, the nature of their collapse and the lack of control will be a concern.
The big news arrived before most of the fans had: Luis SuÃ¡rez started. Four months and a day since he bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, the Uruguayan was back. He made an impact immediately, too, when he slotted the ball to Neymar on the edge of the area. The Brazilian cut inside along the line of the penalty area, and struck a low shot into the far corner.
Lionel Messi and Neymar celebrate Barcelona taking the lead. Lionel Messi and Neymar celebrate Barcelona taking the lead. Photograph: Denis Doyle/Getty Images
SuÃ¡rez had provided the assist; next he provided one for Lionel Messi. The delivery from the right was perfect, low and into the path of the Argentinian on the edge of the six-yard box but Iker Casillas blocked the shot. With hindsight that might seem the moment the game escaped Barcelona, or perhaps when Dani Carvajal blocked from Neymar and Pepe prevented Messiâ€™s cross reaching SuÃ¡rez. Certainly, Barcelona paid for not taking those opportunities.
Gerard PiquÃ© slid in and inexplicably handled Marceloâ€™s cross. Ronaldo scored the penalty. It was the first goal Barcelona had conceded this season, Claudio Bravo finally beaten 776 minutes later. The penalty, already Ronaldoâ€™s 16th goal in the league, also meant that this became the 17th consecutive clÃ¡sico in which both teams had scored. It was little surprise, either; Benzema had previously hit the bar and more goals seemed likely in an open match that had settled into a curious pattern.
Both sides appeared almost satisfied to let the other team attack, as if waiting for them to finish the move before having a go themselves. There was little pressure applied and few tackles made. Barcelona had more of the ball, if only because their attacks tended to be more elaborated, while Madrid were quicker to reach the other area. In the space in between, players advanced largely unchecked.
Madrid had made chances and early in the second half they took the lead and then added to it. The origin of their goals would be familiar â€“ the pace and precision of a counterattack. Now the challenges did come, with the intent to spring forward at speed. Winning possession, Benzema led from deep, nudging the ball to Ronaldo whose shot was blocked by PiquÃ© for a corner. Toni Kroos swung the ball high and long. Pepe, all alone, headed in.
Pepe. left, powers his header into the back of the net. Pepe. left, powers his header into the back of the net. Photograph: Guillermo Martinez/Guillermo Martinez/Demotix/Corbis
Another one came quickly and Luis Enrique must shoulder blame. They say donâ€™t make changes when youâ€™re defending a set play. Donâ€™t make changes when you are attacking one, either. As so often, Madrid were lethal from the opponentâ€™s corner.
Xavi was lined up to take it but his number was up, leaving him to run from corner flag to the bench. He was replaced by Ivan Rakitic whose first touch was an awful corner, cleared towards the touchline. AndrÃ©s Iniesta went to tidy up but the result was a horrible mess. Isco closed him down, sprinting into space behind as Javier Mascherano and Iniesta bumped into each other. The pack was up and running again, from one area to the other in seconds. Isco to Ronaldo to James RodrÃguez to Benzema, a neat finish and it was 3-1.
Karim Benzema fires past Claudio to put the match beyond Barcelona’s reach. Karim Benzema fires past Claudio Bravo to put the match beyond Barcelonaâ€™s reach. Photograph: STR/Reuters
JÃ©rÃ©my Mathieu had drawn a save from Casillas but Barcelona hardly reacted. They advanced but created little and the more they attacked, the more easily Madrid did, surging up the pitch, Barcelona unable to block their path.
At times, Mascherano looked like a man trying to stop the tide. Sometimes he did, more often Madridâ€™s final pass brought the breaks to a premature end. Barcelonaâ€™s hope had ended prematurely too. – The Guardian