Man of the match: It’s hard to separate the match’s two biggest stars, each posting braces, but Cristiano Ronaldo got his goals on the road, helping his team to a valuable point at their arch rivals.
In the 23rd minute, Ronaldo blasted a left-footed shot into the small, near-post window he was generously given at Victor Valdes, staking Real and early lead. Then, with his team down 2-1 in the second half, a burst from the left wing sent him past Martin Montoya and behind Barcelona’s defense, where he put a Mesut Özil pass behind Victor Valdes for the point-winning goal.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Real Madrid played as well as they have at the Nou Camp during the post-Frank Rijkaard era. They were clearly the better side for over the first half hour. Although Barcelona was still controlling the ball, the decisiveness of Real’s play left the Catalans looking less confident than normal.
- And perhaps they had reason to worry, given who Tito Vilanova was forced to start at the back. Carles Puyol was out. So was Gerard Piqué, which make the decision to start Alex Song on the bench even more surprising. Instead, Vilanova dropped Sergio Busquets into central defense to play along side Javier Mascherano.
- Well, kinda. In the defensive phase, Busquets would drop into a back four. In transition and attack, Barcelona’s normal defensive midfielder was playing in front of the line, even occasionally venturing into attack. When Barcelona scored their equalizer in the 31st minute, it was Busquets’ presence in the box that helped create chaos.
- By the second half, Busquets was staying out of the defense. Adriano (on the left) and Montoya (right) were flanking Mascherano in a back three.
- Its hard to say whether Barcelona’s defensive tactics contributed to the first goal. Daniel Alves (who started at right back but quickly came off) was playing far more narrow than we’re used to seeing him, perhaps trying to maintain a narrow back three until Busquets made up the numbers. Alves came into the middle to help on Karim Benzema, leaving Ronaldo alone after Benzema fed a ball into the left of the box.
- Real’s second goal could have also been a product of the makeshift defense. Was Montoya’s slow reaction and Mascherano’s inability to cover a product of the ad hoc tactics?
- When you dominate possession, you can take more chances in defense. The opposition’s going to have less time to exploit you. Today, Real Madrid only had 30 percent of the ball.
- That would have ben enough if José Mourinho’s team was executing their counters with their usual efficiency. Something was off today, though. They lacked their usual sharpness. None of their attackers were getting the ball in dangerous spots. Ángel Di María had a very quiet day.
- Benzema, however, did not. Real’s No. 9 had two very good chances in the first half, one of which went off the post. Given Real’s strong start and Benzema;s opportunities, Los Merengues should have been up two when Messi equalized.
- That equalizer came in the 31st minute, when poor defending on a Pedro Rodríguez cross left Lionel Messi with an easy finish from inside the six-yard box. The most notable gaff: Pepe elevating only to lose his balance and fall to the ground as the deflected cross dropped right to Messi.
- Early in the second half, Messi completed Barcelona’s turnaround, drawing a foul just above the arc before beating Iker Casillas with a beautiful dipping shot.
- The culprit on the play was Xabi Alonso, who never seems to have an impact in these matches. His lunging tackle on Messi was always destined to draw a whistle.
- Alonso lacks the foot speed to keep up with Messi and Andres Iniesta (who had a great game, also). In the game for his passing, Alonso’s only contributions seem to be bad fouls and yellow cards. Mourinho would have been better served by Michael Essien or Luka Modric.
- Even though Ronaldo would find an equalizer, Barcelona controlled the second half. They were finally able to bring Messi into the match, building trough him throughout the match’s final 35 minutes. This led to numerous chances where Messi’s dribbling would push back the defense before he played it left to Iniesta, who would then go wide to Jordi Alba (playing as a left winger) for try to hit a runner through Real’s line.
- After bringing Essien on for Di María late, Real’s defense was able to hold out, the big moment of danger coming when Pedro tested the cross bar.
- Overall it was a great Clasico, with only a late winner keeping it from being one of the series’ best.
- As it concerns the standings, the draw may serve Barcelona well, having carried an eight-point lead on Real Madrid into this match. With only seven rounds gone, however, it’s too early to tell the significance of Barça’s lead. If Real Madrid wins at the Bernabeu, today’s result will look like points lost.
After his first game in charge of West Ham, David Moyes thought he had a better squad. Apparently he was mistaken.
A 2-0 loss to Watford gave Moyes a rude awakening as he looks to replace Slaven Bilic and pull the Hammers out of the relegation zone. He was not pleased with his players.
“Overall, that level of performance will not be good enough,” Moyes told reporters after the match.
He wasn’t done.
“I thought this was a big job, but there were some players with big reputations who disappointed me. There were some who I thought would show me more, and why they play for the team regularly. They need to show me, ‘If that’s your reputation, show me why you’ve got it.'”
He backtracked slightly, agreeing that the players are in a difficult position changing managers, but ultimately that excuse wasn’t enough for him. “It’s tough for the players – I could sense that – but I didn’t enjoy our performance in the end. I didn’t enjoy us giving the ball away too cheaply, too many times and I expected us to do better.”
Moyes even called out striker Andy Carroll, saying he removed the England international because he feared Carroll would pick up a second yellow card. Carroll had picked up his caution seven seconds into the match, leaving Marvin Zeegelaar with a bloody nose after an elbow to the face, something Carroll has been sent off for earlier this season.
“I thought we defended OK,” Moyes said, “but then we gave away cheap goals by getting bundled off the ball and we didn’t really deal with it. We didn’t do well enough in all departments at different times.”
That’s about as ruthless as you’ll ever hear the mild-mannered David Moyes, and all West Ham players should beware that their places in the team are in jeopardy.
Six-time Serie A defending champions Juventus are in trouble. Not a lot, but the heat has been turned up.
A wild 3-2 loss to Sampdoria means the Italian giants are now four points back of Napoli in the Serie A table, and heading into their Champions League matchup with Barcelona, there is plenty of soul-searching to do in Turin.
Juventus nearly mounted what would have been a monumental comeback, down 3-0 heading into stoppage-time but posting goals by Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala in the first and fourth minutes of injury time. It was not to be, and the four-point deficit through 13 games not only leaves Juventus looking at Napoli more than a game in front of them, but also over their shoulders at Roma and Inter Milan both a point behind in third and fourth.
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was kept out of the lineup as he continues to deal emotionally with the World Cup miss, and it showed. After a scoreless first half at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Duzan Zapata beat Stephan Lichtensteiner in the air and sent a looping header over a flatfooted Wojciech Szczesny for the opening goal.
With 20 minutes to go, Sampdoria struck again as former Premier League creator Gaston Ramirez fed 21-year-old Lucas Torreira at the top of the box, and with nobody closing him down, he fired into the bottom-left corner of the net. They got the eventual winner nine minutes later after an embarrassing defensive breakdown by the visitors. A free-kick saw two attackers in front of net against five defenders, but somehow Gianmarco Ferrari was completely unmarked in front of the net for a tap-in.
Higuain struck from the penalty spot and Dybala hit on the counter to beat Emiliano Vivaldo at his near post, but it wasn’t enough for Juventus. The defensive frailty will need to be corrected moving forward, as they face a vital match at Napoli on December 1st, and a loss there could spell disaster for their title charge.
La Liga saw an American amongst its Starting XIs on Sunday.
Shaquell Moore made his first La Liga start in Levante’s 2-0 win at Las Palmas on Sunday.
According to WhoScored, Moore completed 71 percent of his passes, had three interceptions and four tackles won. He was credited with one key pass and three crosses.
[ MORE: McKennie impresses again ]
The right back turned 21 earlier this month, and our primitive research shows him as the first U.S. player to make a La Liga start since Oguchi Onyewu at Malaga in 2013.
Oddly enough, Sunday’s opposition had an American on the books last season with Emmanuel Sabbi skipped college soccer to join Las Palmas. Sabbi joined Danish side Hobro this summer, and made his first start on Friday.
Jozy Altidore spent time with Villarreal and Kasey Keller played for Rayo Vallecano.
Levante’s next match is Sunday at Real Sociedad.
What’s Gareth Bale worth these days? And how much higher than that figure is Manchester United willing to go?
Those are the two main questions that arise from the idea that Tottenham Hotspur may have a contractual privilege to match any offer made to Real Madrid for the ex-Spurs star.
[ MORE: McKennie impresses again ]
Bale, 28, was worth $112 million in today’s dollars when Real bought him in 2013. He has 70 goals and 55 assists in 159 matches for the Spanish outfit.
How much is he worth now? Certainly nothing near the same figure, as Romelu Lukaku went for $99 million this summer and Alvaro Morata went for $80 million.
The Express says Real expects $112 million right back for Bale, which seems insane. Bale has three goals and four assists in nine matches for Real this summer, and had nine and five in 27 outings last season.
Bale did, however, scored 19 goals in 23 La Liga matches two seasons ago, but he’s dealt with significant injuries on a near-annual basis.
Spurs transfer record is the $48 million it spent on Davinson Sanchez this summer. Whatever Manchester United, or anything suitor, will bid for Bale will likely be higher than that figure.
At one point would it make sense for Spurs to smash their record and wage structure to line up Bale, Dele Alli, Harry Kane, and Christian Eriksen in the same attack (I mean, holy smoke, just close your eyes and visualize that!).
Real reportedly wants to make the move happen in January, while United wants to do it in the summer.