Real Madrid returned to the summit of La Liga with the 2-0 win in El Clásico that takes them one point ahead of fierce rivals, Barcelona.

A pulsating end-to-end game between players who left everything on the pitch. It was undoubtedly the best Clásico since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018, fittingly on the Portuguese superstar’s return to the Bernabeu as a spectator.

Los Blancos’ first Clásico win in seven attempts means their better head-to-head record puts them well-placed to wrestle the title back from Quique Setién’s men, who have won the last two Ligas.

Setién would have had a lot to ponder after his first Clásico as Marc-André ter Stegen’s goalkeeping heroics were undone by two near-post finishes by Vinícius Júnior and Mariano Díaz.
It was Thibaut Courtois who came out on top in the battle of the top goalkeepers, however, making four saves and keeping a clean sheet as he continued his exceptional form this season.

Real Madrid’s midfield trio were at their vibrant best; completing nine interceptions between them with Casemiro and Fede Valverde, in particular, registering seven as a pair. They were able to restrict Messi’s impact with Sergio Ramos amazingly not committing a single foul or getting booked.

Both Messi and Ramos had a subdued game. (Reuters)
The hallmark of Real Madrid’s title charge this season has been a solid defensive base, with Courtois leading the chase for the Zamora trophy with the most clean sheets having also conceded the fewest goals. The Belgian showed why he is rightly La Liga’s best custodian this season.

Madrid needed goals amidst topscorer Karim Benzema’s barren spell in front of goal which has seen him net twice in 11 matches this year. There were worries about where the goals needed to win the Clasico would come from, prompting the inclusion of Marcelo in the starting line up but two of Madrid’s several Ronaldo replacements duly stepped up to the plate to revive the title race.

Vinícius became the youngest Clásico goalscorer in the 21st century. Beforehand the 19-year-old had frustrated the crowd with his poor end product throughout the game despite some encouraging play. The opener would have given the Brazilian confidence from his sparkling display as he seeks to become a reliable goalscoring outlet for Los Blancos, in turn relieving the goalscoring burden on Benzema.

Vinicius took the game by the scruff of the neck. (Getty Images)

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This confidence-boosting win took away some of the disappointment of the Champions League Round of 16 first-leg loss to Manchester City, and Zidane knows his Madrid rebuilding mission is perfectly-placed. 

A year ago, Madrid’s trophy-less campaign was confirmed within a week when they faced elimination from the Champions League and Copa, with the squad lacking balance and direction. 

Zidane now has a well-coached unit, with their whole season on the line they worked hard and fought for the Spanish giants’ cause.

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It was just one game but it is a statement win that Madrid had been working towards since Zidane returned a year ago.

Mariano seals a hard-fought victory for Real Madrid with his first touch of the game. (Reuters/Juan Medina)

Now with an easier run of fixtures in the league and a fighting chance in the return leg against Manchester City to look forward to, Zidane has Real Madrid back where they need to be.

Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin
March 2, 2020
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Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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