Barcelona beat Actual Madrid 1-0 on the Bernabeu on Thursday evening in what needs to be thought-about probably the most outrageous, ugly, disjointed El Clásico in current reminiscence.
Even within the context of a match that usually degenerates into banality and cynicism, this was a really horrific model of probably the most iconic rivalries in world soccer. You had been marked by brief, wayward passes, lengthy, hopeful balls, and fewer cohesion amongst your teammates.
The one purpose got here in opposition to the run of play after a foul by Barcelona’s Eduardo Camavinga. Frank Kessie’s shot was saved by Thibaut Courtois, bounced off Eder Militao, then Nacho Fernandez by chance helped it into its path. The one controversy was over which Actual Madrid participant must be credited with an personal purpose. It was that form of night.
Amidst all of the chaos, one thing says arguably his most spectacular participant is Marcos Alonso, who has been used within the centre-back place. It’s not the primary time Alonso has appeared there this season – in reality, he’s performed extra within the center than left-back. Someway, this problem suited him higher than any earlier match.
Alonso is an inquisitive footballer. He’s not likely a left-back as a result of he lacks pure defensive qualities and will get pulled out of place very simply when taking part in in a four-man protection. He’s a type of gamers who appears extra snug at full-back than at full-back.
He developed into a very spectacular footballer in a Fiorentina aspect who usually performed 3-5-2 and was signed by Antonio Conte’s Chelsea as a specialist wing-back. He solely received an opportunity within the first crew when Conte determined to modify from 4-3-3 to 3-4-3, a transfer that primarily received Chelsea the 2016-17 Premier League title.
Alonso shouldn’t be the primary footballer who appears extra snug at full-back than full-back. However he often is the first footballer who clearly qualifies as a right-back and but will rely his aerial prowess as his predominant energy. Wings typically don’t take part in air battles – actually not decisive battles.
Nevertheless, Alonso has made a reputation for himself as an skilled long-range fouler, or wing-back goal man, fairly than an skilled passing participant or dependable arduous employee. It’s troublesome to think about any comparable soccer participant.
How will Alonso carry out in El Clasico, within the face of Golden Ball holder Karim Benzema? Nicely, the reply is dependent upon which a part of the sport you’re watching.
Within the opening interval, Barcelona tried to play soccer of the same old sort. They stored a excessive defensive position, wished to carry on to the ball for lengthy intervals of time and tried to pressure themselves into the sport. On this interval, Alonso struggled.
Topically, he was very unsure and the form of his physique was usually flawed. Throughout the first 30 seconds, Benzema sprinted throughout the entrance of Alonso, who tracked him right down to a deeper place, regardless of the actual fact he might see Luka Modric working ahead in his personal space. Dani Carvajal performed the ball to Modric, for what briefly seemed to be a one-on-one. Modric kicked the ball huge – and in equity, it was flagged for offside anyway. However this was destined to be Barcelona’s downside.
Alonso didn’t study from it. Right here’s an virtually an identical state of affairs – Benzema positioned himself on this aspect to pull Alonso ahead. Modric, who performed brilliantly throughout the first half, as soon as once more has the opportunity of a working again. This time, Carvajal performs the ball into Benzema’s ft.
Right here’s an instance of Alonso being dragged in direction of the opposite aspect of the pitch, virtually in entrance of fellow centre-back Jules Conde, to close down Vinicius Jr. Right here, he might argue that nobody else was prepared to use the area and Sergio Busquets was there to fill in Alonso’s space if wanted. Nevertheless, that was the sample within the first half: Alonso being dragged round at will by Actual Madrid.
However the second half performed out in a totally completely different approach.
Barcelona, main 1-0, has stopped the bus to a larger extent than any Clasico for years, perhaps a long time. Actual Madrid dominated the ball and Barcelona typically regarded for lengthy balls till Ferran Torres, the centre-forward, who was remoted.
The ball stored returning to the guests. Nevertheless, all through the second half, Actual struggled to create a critical goal-scoring alternative.
And whereas this actually sounded non-Barcelona, it was an ideal match for Alonso. The aerial wing-back was all of a sudden, in a comparatively new place of centre-back, in his ingredient. When Actual Madrid fired hopeful passes into the penalty space, Alonso turned Barcelona’s strongest aerial defend and was all the time there to maintain them out.
When the centre-back performed 40 yards from his personal purpose, Alonso seemed to be a hindrance. When he performed centre-back 10 yards from his personal purpose, he felt like a seasoned captain.
Issues virtually turned parody within the closing levels. Right here, Carvajal crossed low into the field and Alonso’s clearance try was minimize down badly within the air. However that was positive – because the ball fell from the sky, fearless stopper Alonso soared again into the sky, off stability, to win the header and clear the hazard.
The ultimate motion of the sport was apt. Within the seventh minute of stoppage time, Actual Madrid’s deep nook kick discovered Aurelien Chouamini within the far nook. The closest man to him was Alonso, who jumped into the air together with his again barely turned, and the ball deflected away from his shoulder.
There was a brief delay whereas the referee was checking the ball and it didn’t hit his arm. However Alonso was protected and Barcelona was dwelling and dry.
Two key figures inform the story. Barcelona has recorded 35 % possession, the bottom of any sport since 2013-14. Likewise, Actual Madrid failed to attain a shot on purpose in a house match for the primary time since Opta started analyzing it (2010). The primary statistic that reveals the match fits Alonso. The second reveals that he did his job.
(Prime photograph: Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Pictures)