Wounded by injuries and suspensions, Jose Mourinho's side had the herculean task of stopping the Catalan giants who despite resting a few players from last week's 5-1 win over Osasuna were still strong enough to challenge their fierce rivals. Madrid on the other hand started with Ricardo Carvalho and Raphael Varane in place of Sergio Ramos and Pepe whereas Jose Callejon, Micheal Essien were also included in the staring XI.
It was a game of high quality, numerous chances and sublime football from both sides. With the likes of Mesut Ozil, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi, Iniesta all on the field it was always going to be a tough task to pick out the game changer amongst them but surprisingly it was the El-Clasico debutant Raphael Varane who came up with an outstanding display to help Los Blancos come from behind to level the tie.
The 19 year old capped a colossal display in the heart of the defense with a second half header cancelling out Cesc Fabregas's opener and setting up a mouth-watering second leg at the Nou Camp. It was a perfect occasion for the French defender to take advantage of the absence of Madrid's first choice center-back pairing and he did not disappoint. His positional sense, concentration and confidence on the ball throughout the 90 minutes was outstanding and was well appreciated by everyone.
"Varane had a magnificent game, it's very hard to look that good at that age for this club. It was a pleasure to play in a match like that, it was a great spectacle." - Gerard PiqueIn an era when defenders have often been criticised for giving away cheap goals and not being able to match the standards set by their legendary predecessors, Varane reminded us that the art of defending is not completely lost.
|Fabregas got the all important away goal|
The Frenchman denied Xavi early on when Carvalho was caught out of position by clearing the ball off the goal-line to keep the score at 0-0. He then went onto put in the tackle of the game that denied Cesc Fabregas his second of the night who was clean through on goal. Varane for most part of the game dominated Lionel Messi who was surprisingly quiet throughout the 90 minutes. Raphael Varane's debut display was arguably one of the greatest Clasico debut's and with Sergio Ramos and Pepe back in the team soon surely Mourinho will have a tough time selecting his defenders.
Although both the teams will rue their missed chances, the defensive work both sides did was impressive. Both sets of defenders have been often criticized but it was the two opposing center-backs, Varane and Gerard Pique who were arguably the best players on the pitch. Pique's last-ditch tackle to deny Cristiano Ronaldo who just needed a tap-in was outstanding and even though both sides had their moments to win the game with Xavi's free-kick and Ronaldo's header early in the second half, it was the defenders who earned the plaudits this time around.
It was a mesmerising game played at high tempo between two of European football's most decorated teams and although Madrid will have a huge task at the Nou Camp, if they can come up with a performance like this again we can be sure of another breath-taking game of football soon.
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