Suarez and Barcelona heap the pres­sure on Lopetegui

Crush­ing de­feat at Barcelona leaves Real Madrid ninth in the La Liga ta­ble

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - PHO­TO­GRAPH: PAUL HANNA/REUTERS

Barcelona’s Luis Suarez (cen­tre) scores their third goal in their 5-1 win over Real Madrid at Camp Nou yesterday. The de­feat leaves Real in ninth place in La Liga and leaves the po­si­tion of coach Julen Lopetegui even more pre­car­i­ous. Ramos-cen­tric ap­proach no longer enough for Real: Ken Early, page 2. Suarez hat-trick leaves Lopetegui on the brink: Sid Lowe,

Real Madrid have now won just once in six games – and if this is to be the end for Julen Lopetegui, it was a painful one, leav­ing his team in ninth place, seven points be­hind Barcelona.

Nor was it just the score­line; it was the sen­sa­tions too. In the first 45 min­utes here, Madrid sim­ply didn’t ex­ist – they were, put bluntly, aw­ful. Sim­ply not there. And while they did re­act in the sec­ond half, while they made a game of this, while they re­belled, it was in­suf­fi­cient. Lionel Messi was not there, but Suárez was. He had feared that the chance had gone, and then took charge of en­sur­ing it hadn’t, adding two more goals to go with his first-half penalty – both of them su­perb.

Suárez had de­parted head in his hands, mut­ter­ing to him­self at half-time. Look­ing up at the scoreboard, that might have ap­peared odd, but the re­ac­tion was no more than a re­flec­tion of a re­al­ity that had been played out here and around the ground. Barcelona were lead­ing 2-0 yet Suárez knew, as the 95,000 fans all did, that it should have been more. And not just be­cause of what had un­folded barely sec­onds be­fore.

In the fi­nal minute of the half, he had led a break: four Barcelona play­ers were sud­denly run­ning through the mid­dle of the pitch up against just two Madrid play­ers, a huge space be­fore them, only for the Uruguayan to waste the op­por­tu­nity to slip the knife in again. Re­leased slightly to the right but tir­ing as he ran, his pass was hor­ri­bly hit and the mo­ment had gone.

The whis­tle went soon af­ter and as Suárez de­parted, head down, Madrid’s play­ers walked off along­side him, wear­ing a lost look. They had trailed from the eleventh minute, and never re­ally looked like re­cov­er­ing there­after. The goal would prove a por­trait of the half: Barcelona played thirty passes be­fore de­liv­er­ing the ball that broke through, a long di­ag­o­nal trav­el­ling over Na­cho to Jordi Alba. He raced for­ward and as Suárez ran into the six-yard box, Madrid’s play­ers go­ing with him, Alba pulled the ball back for Philippe Coutinho to fin­ish from near the penalty spot. Su­pe­ri­or­ity The Camp Nou erupted; Madrid barely re­acted. It wasn’t the chances that de­fined this. In­deed, there weren’t that many of them, in truth; what there was, though, was an over­whelm­ing sense of su­pe­ri­or­ity. It felt al­most as if Barcelona could have ended this sooner had they sought to ac­cel­er­ate, reached for Madrid’s throat – and that of their man­ager Lopetegui, stand­ing alone on the touch­line, the end nigh.

Soon the lead was dou­bled. Raphaël Varane, who would be with­drawn at half-time, brought down Suárez in the area, clip­ping his heel and tum­bling into his back. It took a while, and a video re­play, but even­tu­ally, Sánchez Martínez dashed from the touch­line where he watched it back on the tele­vi­sion and pointed to the spot, from where Suárez beat Cour­tois.

While Barcelona’s con­trol ap­peared com­plete, there is al­ways that doubt, and Suárez’s dis­ap­point­ment deep­ened when Madrid got one back five min­utes into the sec­ond half. Lu­cas Vázquez and Isco made it and, when the ball dropped, Marcelo scored from close range.

Lu­cas had come on for Varane at half-time, Madrid shift­ing to three at the back, width added, and the im­pact had been im­me­di­ate. Here was a re­ac­tion at last. There was a game, af­ter all – a real game. Madrid ex­isted. Luka Mo­dric did too. They were re­vived, re­belling, and play­ing. Barcelona were rat­tled. Per­haps Suárez had fore­seen this, but still it sur­prised how sud­denly it had shifted. Ser­gio Ramos dived to head over, then Mo­dric struck the post. Madrid were pour­ing for­ward now, Barcelona keen to halt them, des­per­ate to take hold of the ball again, find a way through the storm. Won­der­ful move They did and they might have made it 3-1 when a won­der­ful move in­volv­ing Rakitic and Sergi Roberto ended with Suárez ac­ro­bat­i­cally vol­ley­ing against the post. Then Coutinho de­liv­ered for Alba to strike just wide. Barcelona were back in the game but that game was not just theirs any more; it was open and un­cer­tain and when Lu­cas crossed from the right, Karim Ben­zema prob­a­bly should have headed in, not over, from nine yards.

In Suárez, though, Barcelona had an out­let un­like any other. They also had Alba whizzing about. And changes to make, all of which worked per­fectly. Ous­mane Dem­bélé was sent on, and al­most straight away was run­ning at Barcelona. He spread it wide to Sergi Roberto who clipped in a cross. Suárez’s neck strained and snapped and his su­perb header, full of in­tent, flew pow­er­fully into the net be­yond Cour­tois.

He wasn’t fin­ished yet. Sergi Roberto bat­tled with Ramos and re­leased Suarez. Run­ning through, he dinked the ball won­der­fully over Cour­tois. And still there was more, Dem­bélé wrig­gling through and cross­ing, for Barcelona’s third sub­sti­tute Ar­turo Vi­dal to leap and head in. It was five, and it was over.

Lopetegui just watched, lost and long gone. – Guardian

PHO­TO­GRAPH: PAUL HANNA/REUTERS

Lu­cas Vazquez and his Real team-mates look de­jected af­ter con­ced­ing their fourth goal scored by Barcelona’s Luis Suarez (not pic­tured).

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