Real Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo Backed by Raphael Varane

All the focus, as in any match and especially in a Clasico, was on Cristiano Ronaldo. Instead, another Real Madrid player rose to the challenge – Raphael Varane, scoring the late equalizer and saving his team a couple of times from conceding.

If you want to look at the finer details, Real Madrid didn’t deserve to score the equalizer. The corner that created the chance for Varane shouldn’t have been a corner; a minute earlier it was¬†Ricardo Carvalho who used his hand to stop Lionel Messi from getting into the box, and should have been sent off. Small mistakes that change the fortune, the outcome, and the overall feeling.

Should Real Madrid be happy with a draw at home? They know they have the ability to get a good result at the Camp Nou and still, it felt as if Real Madrid packed a stronger punch and all they could do was slightly dent the Barcelona car. Barca on the other hand, have had better matches, and it still felt like they could have won it with a bit more effort.

Cristiano Ronaldo was all about effort; I don’t know what kind of distance he covered on the left flank, but the man was everywhere. Defending, starting counter attacks, finishing them. When Ronaldo begins making runs all alone on the left flank, you know Real Madrid have given up on the match. It happened twice in the final minutes, with Thiago tackling him. When Ronaldo looked around, he saw he was the only one pushing forward.

Mesut Ozil had another good match, which usually means good things for Real Madrid. The problem was aside from him and Ronaldo, not too many players were involved in the build up and the attacks. Both Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira were instructed to keep an eye on the midfield and stop Barcelona from countering through there; Karim Benzema was having a rough day, not really succeeding in anything he tried to do.

Raphael Varane was the big surprise. He still isn’t the perfect marking man when it comes to set pieces, but his strength and speed are already at a top level, and his positioning and timing saved Real Madrid from conceding twice – once clearing the ball off the line in the first half; a second time when he chased down Cesc Fabregas and tackled him perfectly in the box. And then there’s the goal with an impressive header, although it wasn’t that special.

The rest was about defense – always two players watching Lionel Messi and a lot of good minutes of pressure on the Barcelona midfield. With Luka Modric on the pitch Real Madrid did score the equalizer but did not look more dangerous. They did have an easier time controlling the midfield, but that left Pedro open plenty of times, especially when Messi finally decided to fall back a bit and help with the ball movement that wasn’t as dominating and fluid as most days.

This is probably the distance between the teams. Barcelona are the better side, but not by much. Not by enough to win games without giving their all. For Real Madrid, not in their full lineup, this wasn’t as good as it gets, but it wasn’t far from it.

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