Teamwork makes the dream work

Bellingham Present returns as Actual Madrid win Clasico thriller

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MADRID — Jude Bellingham scored a late winner as Actual Madrid beat Barcelona 3-2 in an exhilarating version of El Clasico on Sunday, leaving Madrid 11 factors clear on the prime of the desk and — with six video games left — closing in on the LaLiga title.

Barca went forward early on on the Santiago Bernabeu by Andreas Christensen, earlier than Vinicius Junior equalized from the penalty spot. Barca may need gone forward earlier than halftime, however with no goal-line expertise in LaLiga, Lamine Yamal’s shot was judged to not have crossed the road.

Substitute Fermin Lopez’s close-range end put Barca again in entrance halfway by the second half, however Lucas Vazquez levelled simply 4 minutes later, earlier than Bellingham struck in added time.

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– Learn on ESPN+: What wouldn’t it take for Barca to catch Madrid?

Alex Kirkland and Sam Marsden in Spain break down what that outcome means for every of the LaLiga giants.


Actual Madrid’s inevitable LaLiga title belongs to Bellingham

In fact, it was Jude Bellingham. Was there ever any doubt?

The midfielder scored twice to win the primary Clasico of the season again in October in what might solely be dubbed the Bellingham Present. Right here, he dazzled once more with one other dramatic aim in added time, firing previous Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to successfully finish the title race. Actual Madrid will win LaLiga this season, and Bellingham’s half in that victory could not have been a lot higher.

Madrid at the moment are 11 factors forward of second-placed Barca. Six of these factors have come from two Clasico wins, each because of Bellingham. Twice Barca went forward right here on the Santiago Bernabeu, and twice Madrid fought again — with unsung hero Lucas Vazquez the important thing man on each events — earlier than Bellingham sealed the three factors within the 91st minute.

This wasn’t a Clasico that Madrid needed to win. They only had to verify they did not lose, to protect their lead on the prime, and keep away from Barca injecting some belated life again into the title race. So this wasn’t as all-or-nothing as El Clasico normally feels. However that is nonetheless the most important membership recreation in world soccer, and the environment on the Bernabeu lived as much as the event. Even the stadium’s new, imposing 360-degree large wraparound screens have been switched on for the primary time.

This wasn’t fairly Madrid’s strongest XI, with some tiredness from 120 minutes performed in opposition to Manchester Metropolis in midweek. Coach Carlo Ancelotti made three adjustments, with Dani Carvajal, Nacho Fernandez and Ferland Mendy dropping out. Luka Modric — in what may be his final Clasico look — got here into midfield, whereas Vazquez changed Carvajal, and Aurelien Tchouameni joined Antonio Rudiger at centre-back. The absence of Mendy meant Eduardo Camavinga at left-back, with the daunting activity of going up in opposition to Lamine Yamal.

It wasn’t all optimistic for Madrid. Barcelona’s opener will make for uncomfortable viewing for goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, who was the penalty shootout hero in opposition to Metropolis. Lunin got here off his line to attempt to attain Raphinha’s nook, could not get wherever close to it, and was simply overwhelmed. Metropolis had 18 corners in opposition to Madrid in Manchester and could not rating from any of them. Right here, Barca solely wanted one.

One other fear was how tough Lamine Yamal was making life for Camavinga, earlier than he was finally changed within the second half. Nevertheless it’s one other, much less thrilling large participant, Vazquez, who deserves simply as a lot consideration. The 32-year-old’s dribbling run led to Madrid’s first aim, beating Joao Cancelo and going over Pau Cubarsi’s leg, for Vinicius to transform the penalty. And when Barca went again in entrance within the second half, it was Vazquez who responded to make it 2-2, assembly Vinicius’ cross with a cool far-post end.

Vazquez bought the help for the winner, too, though by then the main focus was, naturally, on Bellingham and one more essential aim in what has been a exceptional debut season. Over and over, when Madrid have wanted it most, Bellingham has delivered, the last word clutch participant. And he may need simply delivered them the league title. — Alex Kirkland

With trophyless season assured, unsure Barca rebuild begins

Barcelona’s season will finish trophyless.

This week started with hopes of reaching a primary Champions League remaining since 2019 and chopping the hole on LaLiga leaders to Actual Madrid to 5 factors. It ended with a European exit and a 3rd El Clásico defeat of the season.

There have been moments in Madrid on Sunday when it seemed like they’d breathe life again into their fading title hopes. Christensen’s opening aim and López’s strike to make it 2-1 are the plain standout moments, however this was additionally one other evening when 16-year-old Lamine Yamal as soon as once more confirmed how particular he’s.

There have been different moments that would have modified the sport, too. Barça will bemoan the very fact aim line expertise shouldn’t be utilized in Spain after Yamal’s first half effort, spooned away by Lunin, was dominated to not have crossed the road. They may also lament poor ending from Ferran Torres and lapse defending from Joao Cancelo.

Cancelo was overwhelmed too simply by Vázquez, who was then fouled by Pau Cubarsí resulting in the penalty Madrid levelled from. The Portuguese full-back then left the identical participant fully unmarked for Madrid’s second equaliser at a second when it seemed just like the momentum had swung in Barça’s favour.

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Have Barca’s defensive weaknesses price them the LaLiga title?

Dan Thomas is joined on ESPN FC by Craig Burley and Alejandro Moreno to look again on Barcelona’s El Clásico defeat to Actual Madrid.

If particular person errors have hampered Barça’s title defence all through the season, accidents have additionally performed their half. There was one other one right here when Frenkie de Jong was compelled off with an ankle drawback late within the first half.

However, in reality, even a win on the Bernabéu could not have been sufficient. They’d nonetheless have wanted Madrid, who’ve misplaced simply as soon as within the league this season, to drop factors in not less than two extra video games, whereas profitable all their remaining six matches. Maybe it is higher to maneuver on with out the false hope three factors could have introduced.

Now Barça can concentrate on what comes subsequent. It stays to be seen what the longer term holds for coach Xavi Hernández. Earlier than this week, the requires him to reverse his choice to step down in the summertime have been rising after a 13-game unbeaten run. Again-to-back defeats to Paris Saint-Germain and Madrid could change that.

Xavi led Barça to a primary LaLiga title since 2019 final season, nevertheless it’s onerous to argue they’ve improved this season, regardless of the additions of Cancelo, Joao Felix and Ilkay Gundogan. They’ve come up brief in opposition to Madrid on three events and misplaced their method in opposition to PSG regardless of holding a two-goal benefit when Ronald Araujo was despatched off within the second leg in midweek.

Gundogan informed ESPN this week that they’re experiences that can serve to enhance the staff subsequent season. That is a optimistic method of taking a look at it. There may be additionally a gifted younger squad brimming with potential, however there are additionally monetary points and areas of the staff which want bettering. Whereas the longer term is unsure, the loss to Madrid means the planning can now begin. — Sam Marsden