Barcelona defeat Real Madrid and secure as good as La Liga with a dramatic Clasico winner


Soccer Football – LaLiga – FC Barcelona v Real Madrid – Camp Nou, Barcelona, ​​Spain – March 19, 2023 FC Barcelona’s Franck Kessie celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS/Juan Medina

Barcelona and Real Madrid staged a classic Clasico that looked set to end in disappointment for 90 minutes and 30 seconds on Sunday. It was end-to-end but 1-1 on the scoreboard and unflappable. It was enough for Barca to secure a nine-point lead over La Liga but not to spark all-night parties in the Catalan capital. It was exciting, but unfortunately ambiguous with five minutes of stoppage time.

Then Franck Kessié snuck into the penalty area undetected as the most unlikely of all title heroes.

The Ivorian midfielder has been goalless in La Liga since joining Barca as a free agent last summer. But in the 91st minute, with Camp Nou building the expectation, he caught a skidding Alejandro Balde cross and created a blast.

He won a game Real Madrid desperately needed to win and instead all but confirmed Barcelona would win their 27th Spanish title.

When the final whistle blew, Sunday’s winners were 12 points clear of their arch-rivals at the top of the league with 12 games remaining. So her bank spilled out onto the field in unbridled ecstasy. They jumped around in circles. They celebrated the ultimate climax, a triumph in the world’s biggest soccer league to basically win one of the biggest trophies, with glee.

Outside the Camp Nou, similar celebrations continued around midnight, not just because Real Madrid had been defeated but because a high-stakes turnaround was complete. Just over a year ago, Barcelona were on the decline – towards both sporting mediocrity and financial ruin.

But Xavi arrived mid-season to set the sporting direction. In the boardrooms, club officials essentially mortgaged the club’s future in search of short-term stability over the summer. Barca were effectively broke but sold their soul and future television rights to fund a spending spree that could re-establish their place in football’s elite.

It was economic misconduct in many ways – and has reportedly resulted in the club having to cut their payroll by €200m this summer.

But it also allowed them to afford players like Jules Koundé, who fended off Real Madrid counterattacks on Sunday; and Robert Lewandowski, who slipped a clever butt to Balde in the 91st minute; and Kessie.

His winner didn’t solve Barcelona’s many long-term problems, but that’s why executives and fans alike tolerate the fact that they’re inevitable. Because Sunday was incredible.

Because an eternal rivalry that had recently developed towards Madrid, away from Catalonia, has now returned to where everyone in this part of the world thinks it belongs.

Because Barca will be champions.

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