Barca out­class Real

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

LUIS SUAREZ scored a hat-trick as Barcelona out­classed Real Madrid to seal a stylish El Cla­sico vic­tory that fur­ther dam­ages their bit­ter ri­vals and Madrid’s stricken man­ager Julen Lopetegui.

The for­mer Spain boss now seems cer­tain to lose his job in the wake of a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat in a match cru­cial to his chances of sur­vival.

His side con­jured some­thing of a re­vival in the sec­ond half but ul­ti­mately they were sunk by an ir­re­sistible Barca per­for­mance, and it now ap­pears only a ques­tion of when he will be fired.

Philippe Coutinho slot­ted in and Suarez con­verted a penalty, awarded by a video as­sis­tant ref­eree de­ci­sion for Varane’s foul on the Uruguayan, for Barca’s half-time ad­van­tage.

Marcelo chested down and fin­ished to give Real hope, but Suarez’s header and chipped fin­ish, fol­lowed by Vi­dal’s header, com­pleted the rout.

The vis­i­tors had be­gun the day within four points of Barca, but now trail them by seven and find them­selves ninth in the ta­ble af­ter 10 matches.

Ernesto Valverde’s side, win­ners of the seven league ti­tles from the past 10, are top of the league, lead­ing Atletico Madrid by two points.

Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Real be­gan the postZine­dine Zi­dane and Cris­tiano Ron­aldo era im­pres­sively un­der for­mer Spain boss Lopetegui, but since then the mood has shifted dra­mat­i­cally.

Be­fore yesterday’s match, ev­ery­one, ex­cept those with any of­fi­cial con­nec­tion to Real Madrid that is, was say­ing the same thing: Lopetegui was set for the sack and only a hand­some win in El Cla­sico could save him.

Even then the con­sen­sus seemed to be that only a wide vic­tory mar­gin—a 5-1, for ex­am­ple —would do the job.

In the sec­ond half, his side might eas­ily have drawn them­selves level on more than one oc­ca­sion but luck did not run their way.

Win­ners of the past three Cham­pi­ons Leagues, they were look­ing des­per­ately short on con­fi­dence, but emerged from the break trans­formed and al­most dragged them­selves level in a 10-minute spell of clear su­pe­ri­or­ity.

First Marcelo poked home from close range af­ter good work by Isco and sub­sti­tute Lu­cas Vazquez down the right, be­fore Gareth Bale clipped the in­side of the post and Karim Ben­zema missed with a header.

That pe­riod of dom­i­nance was rem­i­nis­cent of the 1-0 de­feat at CSKA Moscow in the Cham­pi­ons League where they had 23 shots at goal and hit the post twice, and last week­end’s 2-1 home de­feat by Le­vante, where they had 33 shots, hit the wood­work three times and had a goal ruled out by the video as­sis­tant ref­eree.

But ul­ti­mately, none of this will count in Lopetegui’s favour. Suarez out­shines Barca’s big sign­ings In the ab­sence of Lionel Messi, the ques­tion was who would be Barca’s tal­is­man? Ous­mane Dem­bele, the £135.5m France in­ter­na­tional for­ward? Or Phillippe Coutinho, signed for £142m?

In the end it was Suarez who stole the show and de­fined this clas­sic Cla­sico en­counter in the Ar­gen­tine’s ab­sence.

His sec­ond goal was per­haps the most vi­tal to his side, as it restored a two-goal cush­ion fol­low­ing sig­nif­i­cant Real Madrid pres­sure, but his third, Barcelona’s fourth of the night, was by far the most stylish.

The for­mer Liver­pool striker dinked a won­der­ful chip over Thibaut Cour­tois with real Madrid ragged at the back.

It seemed to mark the point of hu­mil­i­a­tion that Barca’s fans be­hind Cour­tois’ goal had been dream­ing of, and the re­ac­tion in the stands matched that of the play­ers on the pitch: sheer glee as they watched their ri­vals suf­fer.

Late sub­sti­tute Vi­dal’s header provided the fi­nal painful blow, and Dem­bele even came close to adding a sixth in in­jury time. The Euro­pean cham­pi­ons had sim­ply crum­bled. And who, now, can sug­gest Lopetegui is the man to re­build them? —BBC Sport

Luis Suarez

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