It was a game of high quality and great intrigue, with some of the sport’s greatest attacking masterminds doing their thing. But the Copa del Rey semifinal first leg between Real Madrid and Barcelona will ultimately be remembered for Raphael Varane’s magnificent display, which not only kept the Blancos in the tie, but also announced him as a defender of the highest caliber.
Never before had the Frenchman made it further than the bench on Clasico night, but he used the occasion to show just what he is capable of in the pressure cooker atmosphere of one of football’s most monumental match-ups. In a day when defending is crying out for a new exponent of some of its greatest arts, Varane displayed a little bit of everything in a perfect 90-minute performance. And as if that wasn’t enough, he grabbed the equalizer which sends his side to Camp Nou in four weeks’ time with the scores level.
With a great show of anticipation and speed, the 19-year-old made up for a mistake by his experienced center back partner Ricardo Carvalho to keep the score at 0-0 in the first half, clearing Xavi’s shot off the line when a goal seemed inevitable. Then there was a magnificent, textbook last-ditch tackle on Barca goalscorer Cesc Fabregas when a 2-0 deficit appeared a cast-iron certainty.
|MATCH FACTS | Madrid 1-1 Barca |