In a match that could have gone either way, Real Madrid probably enjoyed the better chances but it always felt like Barcelona weren’t giving it their all most of the time. Cristiano Ronaldo worked and missed, Lionel Messi walked around saving his energy, in a semifinal first leg that should and did end in a 1-1 draw.
Real Madrid were the first to show how badly they want this win with some early pressure and a fantastic free kick from Cristiano Ronaldo. Barcelona were slow out of the dressing room, waiting for the storm to blow over and begin to show their famous ball movement style, resulting in a Xavi free kick hitting the cross bar and another fantastic chance for him, saved from the line by Raphael Varane.
If anyone had any doubt regarding Varane’s future and place at Real Madrid, it wasn’t just his equalizing goal in the second half that showed his future is a great one. He saved two clear cut chances by showing speed, strength and perfect timing in his tackling, denying Fabregas and Pedro on a couple of occasions.
In between there were a couple of headers missed by Cristiano Ronaldo from very close range. Ronaldo didn’t continue his streak of scoring in Clasico matches, but did everything he could on the pitch; defending, building and finishing counter attacks. All the hard work didn’t really pay off.
Lionel Messi on the other end was always closed down by two or three players. He didn’t get involved in the passing game for Barcelona, which kind of left him out of the business for long stretches. Once in a while he tried to make himself felt, mostly dribbling into a group of players, turning the ball over.
The goal came thanks to excellent pressure by the midfield while Real Madrid lacked concentration trying to build an attack. Cesc Fabregas wasn’t offside, and scored in the 50th minute.
From here, Barcelona saw more of the ball, as Pedro missed an incredible one on one by sending the ball just wide in front of a wide open net. Real Madrid tried to press Barcelona, but couldn’t create chances. Only in the 81st minute, after the referee didn’t see Ricardo Carvalho handling the ball with his hand, denying Messi a chance at goal did Real win a corner, eventually leading to another cross and Varane’s goal.
A deserved draw from both sides, giving Barcelona the edge heading into the second leg next month (February 27) thanks to an away goal.