Luis Suarez destroyed Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu to put his team in the Copa del Rey final and leave their great rival’s domestic season once again in tatters.
They may have held the Champions League for 1,000 days but there have been few home comforts over recent years. They will be watching this season’s cup final on television and if Barcelona beat them again on Saturday they will be 12 points behind them in the league.
Suarez did the damage. His nickname at the club is Gordo – ‘fat’. It’s an affectionate reference to his stocky build. Whenever his touch is off the critics suggest he should lose a few pounds.
He looked cumbersome here for 45 minutes, Was he injured? Was he exhausted? Or was he just saving himself for the second-half demolition job?
His finish for the first goal was exceptional and his cool chip from the penalty spot rubbed Real’s face into the ruins of another miserable night against Barcelona. Lionel Messi still hasn’t scored against them in the Cup but he didn’t need to. In between his two goals Suarez it was who was breathing down Raphael Varane’s neck as he put the ball past his own keeper.
He may not always look like the streamline supermodel but he’s a finisher and it’s what Real Madrid so desperately miss with Cristiano Ronaldo sold, Gareth Bale on the bench and Vinicius still raw in front of goal.
The first half had been the story of the 18-year-old’s wastefulness. He has it all except composure in the penalty area. The winger missed a hat-full of chances the worse of which came when Casemiro sent him through the middle with a perfectly weighted pass.
His first touch was poor, his second touch even worse sending him wide and when his shot was blocked by Clement Lenglet, Karim Benzema couldn’t get enough power in the shot to beat Marc Andre ter Stegen.
There was also a penalty shout when he went down after a challenge from Nelson Semedo. Contact was minimal and replays appeared to show him going down easily.
The Brazilian’s next chance came from Sergio Reguilon’s cross. The ball was slightly behind him and when he readjusted the opportunity was gone.
Reguilon was exceptional in the first half making key interceptions and intelligent forays into Barcelona’s half. He also made one powerful run from deep in his own half that Nelson Semedo brought to an end by flattening the 22-year-old. There is a reason why Marcelo was watching the game – while occasionally twirling the ball on his index finger – on the bench.
Barcelona were struggling to threaten. Ousmane Dembele flashed one ball across the face of the six-yard box but too often he and Jordi Alba were on different wavelengths and Suarez seemed to be struggling. Appearances can be deceptive.
On 50 minutes the first goal came. Jordi Alba got down the left and Suarez lurked between Sergio Ramos, who wasn’t tight enough, and Toni Kroos, who wasn’t running back with enough conviction.
When the ball was played to the Uruguayan he fizzed a first time shot past Keylor Navas before Ramos and Kroos could realize just how code-red the danger was. Barcelona had their goal. Now Real Madrid needed to score twice.
Again a chance was made and not taken. Reguilon pushed the ball one side of Semedo and ran the other before crossing to Lucas Vazquez who couldn’t apply the finishing touch.
Tired of making opportunities that were then squandered Reguilon angled one of his runs into the area. Vinicius picked him out but from the full-back’s header Ter Stegen saved at full-stretch.
With no sign of the goal coming Bale came on for Lucas Vazquez. But before he could touch the ball Barcelona scored twice.
First Dembele went down the right and crossed. Suarez would have bundled the ball in but Raphael Varane got there first to poke it past Navas.
Suarez still looked to be running with stones in his boots at times but he got away from Real Madrid again moments later and when Casemiro stood on his foot the penalty was given.
To cap a great night for him he sent it ‘Panenka-style’ over the dive of Navas. Ramos grimaced and the score read 3-0.
Bale finally started getting some touches on the ball but when he sent his first chance well wide there were whistles from the home supporters.
Things are tough for him right now and if Barcelona beat Real Madrid again on Saturday they will start getting a lot tougher for coach Solari.