April 17, 2024

BARCELONA, Spain — Real Madrid emerged as the comeback winners of Saturday’s Clasico against Barcelona thanks to the heroics of Jude Bellingham, whose two goals canceled out an early Barca goal at Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys.

With the result, Barcelona have lost their first match of the LaLiga season and fall to third on the league table as Real Madrid leapfrog their way to first. Real Madrid’s comeback from being down a goal at halftime is the first in the history of El Clasico in 35 years since it happened in 1988.

Barcelona looked at first to be cruising in front of a home crowd, taking an early lead through a sixth-minute Ilkay Gündogan goal. But then “The Jude Bellingham Show” began.

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First, the English midfielder scored from a stunning, thunderous in the 68th minute. Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen barely got a hand to it, but the speed and power behind it were too much. Then, in stoppage time Bellingham scored the game-winner. Dani Carvajal crossed the ball into the box, and Luka Modric got a toe to it, making it bounce toward goal and Bellingham pounced, tucking it beyond Ter Stegen.

Here’s reaction from Alex Kirkland and Sam Marsden, who were at Saturday’s match in Spain:


Real Madrid were quiet — up until Bellingham wasn’t

In the end, of course it was all about Jude Bellingham. The best player in LaLiga this season had been quiet in El Clasico — his individual performance reflective of Real Madrid’s subdued collective — but when his moment came, he delivered in the most emphatic way possible.

In the 68th minute, with Madrid 1-0 down, Gavi‘s header fell to Bellingham outside the Barcelona box. He took two touches, one to control the ball on the turn, the next to get it out from under his feet, before unleashing a vicious shot past Ter Stegen. It was his ninth LaLiga goal — his 12th in all competitions for Madrid — and it was his best, in the biggest game of all.

And there was more. In the 92nd minute, he was there inside the six-yard box, slotting past Ter Stegen for the winner. Ten league goals for Real Madrid’s No. 10 — another challenge accepted and El Clasico conquered at the first attempt.

Before that, Madrid had been disappointing at Montjuic. They went behind early — unconvincing defending by Aurélien Tchouaméni and David Alaba allowing Gundogan in — and even so, there was no reaction. If Madrid had a plan for fighting their way back, it wasn’t apparent. They looked low on energy, unforgiveable in a game of this magnitude, and short of ideas. By contrast, Barca looked focused, composed and defensively solid, vindicating manager Xavi Hernandez’s decision to pick three centre-backs, with Ronald Araújo helping out against Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior.

Madrid didn’t have a single shot on target in the first half. Antonio Rüdiger‘s wildly optimistic effort from distance, fired well over the bar midway through the half, was emblematic. They struggled to create danger, to get Vinícius, Rodrygo Goes or Federico Valverde into positions where they could hurt Barca. Bellingham was quiet, too. The team improved immediately when Eduardo Camavinga came on for the anonymous Ferland Mendy on 52 minutes. At last there was some spark, urgency and direction. Toni Kroos had their first shot on goal, comfortably saved by Ter Stegen, after an hour.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti introduced Luka Modric and Joselu, pushing Madrid for an equaliser, but when it came, it was all about one man alone, Bellingham striking out of nowhere. Bellingham started this season scoring poacher’s goals, negating the team’s lack of a centre-forward. Now, apparently, he can score from wherever he likes.

For Bellingham’s first goal here he was 31 yards out, the second longest-range goal of his career. It was a ball struck with anger, perhaps frustration. There was no arms-outstretched celebration. Instead he turned and ran straight back to the centre circle, all business, ready to do it again. And then in added time, he did. This time the celebrations were exultant.

Barca’s collapse after strong start shows work left to do

Barcelona will be wondering how this one slipped through their fingers.

They were the better side early on, with Xavi’s decision to play three central defenders and wing-backs working well. The Barça coach would have taken great satisfaction from his side’s first-half performance, with Vinicius and Bellingham well-shackled and Gundogan’s goal giving the home team a deserved lead.

However, Xavi will be frustrated at how Barça let Madrid back into the game after the break as they were beaten for the first time in LaLiga this season to leave them four points behind co-leaders Madrid and Girona.

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Jude Bellingham comes up clutch to give Real Madrid a late lead

Jude Bellingham taps home the goal to give Real Madrid a 2-1 lead in stoppage time against FC Barcelona.

Fitness issues had dominated Barca’s build-up to the first to the first Clásico of the season. In the end, Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Koundé were deemed fit enough to return to the bench, but it came too soon for Frenkie de Jong, Pedri and Sergi Roberto.

Despite that, Barça impressed early on. Gundogan’s goal gave them a sixth-minute lead and they should have added a second. Fermín López, one of the revelations of the season so far, hit the post. João Félix then dallied on the ball after producing a superb nutmeg on Rüdiger, allowing Carvajal to make a brilliant challenge.

More chances came after the break. Iñigo Martínez headed Fermín’s cross against the post and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga saved the rebound from Ronald Araujo. On the hour mark, Lewandowski was introduced as Xavi looked to kill the game and leapfrog in Madrid in the table. João Cancelo then saw a deflected effort loop wide before Los Blancos began to ask some questions of Barça.

Tchouaméni’s long-ranger, tipped wide by Ter Stegen, served as a warning and minutes later Bellingham drew Madrid level from distance. Lewandowski came close to restoring Barça’s lead but, as the game looked destined to be drawn, Bellingham popped up again, converting Carvajal’s cross in stoppage time.

This was supposed to be the Clásico of the Rolling Stones. Their logo adorned Barça’s shirts as part of the club’s sponsorship agreement with Spotify and Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood were seated in the directors’ box. The soundtrack, though, as has so often been the case for Madrid this season, was provided by a Beatles track in the end: “Hey Jude.”

The defeat will hurt for Barça but it should not derail their season. It came in trying circumstances with several players either missing or not fit and a four point gap to the leaders after 11 games is not a catastrophe. However, it also highlighted that there is still work to be done at both ends of the pitch after they failed to add a second before wilting in the final 20 minutes.

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