The classic, always so loaded with pending accounts, arrived submerged in the mud of the Negreira case. There was plenty of fuel there to ignite the Madrid stands. An hour and a half before the match began, a hundred Real Madrid fans had gathered in the vicinity of the Santiago Bernabéu for the first portion of the protest. They carried a small banner with the currency of the night: “Corruption in the Federation!”. The song had already caught on in the stadium days ago, and even on the bench, where it was read on the lips of Dani Ceballos. But the visit of Barcelona, the club that had paid the number two of the referees for almost two decades, was the great night of disappointment. They had printed hundreds of 500 euro bills with the face of Joan Laporta. They shouted against the federation. Also against the president of Barça, who in his previous term quadrupled the payments to Enríquez Negreira. “Laporta, drop the pasta!” They shouted under a shower of papers. Little floating pieces of outrage.
Inside, on the grass, the agitation thermostat is carried by Vinicius. The length of the fuse until the outbreak of the Madrid revolt coincides with that of the Brazilian. Sometimes game, sometimes out of control. Opposite, Xavi had placed Araujo again, perhaps the footballer who has best deciphered his sleight of hand. The biggest recent mystery for the attacker. Vinicius began to test the Uruguayan from afar. Xavi was proud: “Vinicius, who gives you six seven chances per game, practically none today.”
When the Brazilian found the first big hole in the Barça defence, it was also without dribbling. He found Benzema in the small area with a subtle lob that the Frenchman captured and ended up leaving in the net. The linesman deactivated it with the flag held high. It was the fate of Madrid, who did not take a single shot on goal in the entire match, the first time since the score was kept, 15 years ago, according to statistician Alexis Martín.
Carlo Ancelotti ended up frustrated: “It has been difficult to look for opportunities. The defensive lines were very close. We played on the outside, we put in a lot of crosses…”. But without fruit. “Shopping crosses is not the best thing for us,” he said.
Vinicius was still circulating through the classic at low revs, except for another run-in with Busquets. It wasn’t long before combustion. The Brazilian hugged De Jong in midfield. The Dutchman touched the ground before and the Brazilian ended with yellow and enraged. “Corruption, in the federation!”, again in the stands.
The vibration destabilized the balance that Madrid maintained. And he received a goal, which the other linesman annulled, and rescued the VAR a minute later. “An individual error, a poorly made pass, they have looked for us on the counter and with a rebound they have marked us,” Ancelotti described.
Araujo had Vinicius tied up, who barely tried to haggle. And Barcelona had just baffled Madrid, owner of the ball and the game, misplaced on the scoreboard. The story backwards.
That wiggle was just a gust. The Barça defense had anesthetized the game with a minuscule portion of the ball: it had been tamed only a third of the time. The story backwards. Courtois believes that Barça took more than its fair share from the Bernabéu: “Maybe they didn’t deserve to win because we dominated the game, but it was difficult for us to shoot on goal and we couldn’t find the chances to score.”
Rodrygo’s story also turned upside down. He appeared on the field almost in 67, the border of the area of his prodigies from the last Champions League at the Bernabéu. But Barcelona had managed to reduce the revolutions so much that even the comeback Brazilian seemed to have the flu.
His switch wasn’t working, and neither was the new resource at Ancelotti’s warehouse. In 84 he introduced the 1.94 of youth squad Álvaro Rodríguez. The striker who is still cradled by Raúl at Castilla changed the game against Osasuna and managed to tie a stuck derby with an impressive headed goal.
In any case, Ancelotti seemed to leave the stadium with hope: “We played the game we wanted to play. It is a match that gives us confidence for the second leg. A good result has not come out, but we just have to repeat the match in Barcelona”, he said. “If we are capable of having this intensity we will have more opportunities. I don’t think they can set up such a defensive match at the Camp Nou”.
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