What a game of football that was! Even with the two superstars not at their best. Cristiano started at an incredible intensity, but the rest of his match didn't live up to those first ten minutes. As much as he tried to run it off, he was hampered by an ankle problem. Messi, meanwhile lacked his natural speed, and seemed to be holding something back on each of his runs. Only one of his raids bore his usual trademarks, and he finished it poorly. But despite those two not delivering the maximum, the match was still a superb one for the quality and commitment of all the players out there, and the fantastic contrast of styles that a clásico always offers.
It was one that deserved more goals, and that kept us on the edge of our seats. Madrid got off to a flier, while Barça grew into the game, taking the sting out of the ball and dominating until the break, although lacking impact in the final third. In the second half Barça came out with more purpose, and when they scored an early goal the game was opened up. Madrid didn't hang around in responding, and forced their opponents into a duel of breakneck pace; it's not Barça's normal tempo but they held up and counter-attacked well. Now they were attacking with more incision, but the final product was lacking. The exchange of blows ended up favouring Madrid, who bagged an equalizer with Varane's imperious header from a measured cross delivered by Özil.
Surely, from among all the international stars on show, it was Varane who finished as man of the match. Thanks to a number of opportune crosses, his reliability on the ball, his speed, his class and his goal. It could be said that yesterday he emerged as a great player. It'll be hard to see him out of the team when Pepe and Sergio Ramos come back. As for the rest, Diego López provided a crucial save from Jordi Alba, with the score at 1-1, which will support his claims on this return to Madrid. And now we wait expectantly for the next clásico. It's going to be a while, although when this football match does rear its head once more, it'll be for two back-to-back occasions.