In a cup final, you always want a quick start so you can personally dictate the pace of the match. That way, you can start the match on the upswing and try to kill off your opponent early, instead of sweating it out later or attempting to come back from a deficit.
Barca did just that, dominating the opening half with precise passing, good possession, and quality chance creation.
The chance creation came early and often, with Barca creating a few good chances before the game’s first significant breakthrough.
Barca creates early chances
In just the 10th minute, Barca came close to finding the match’s first goal.
Gavi found Lewandowski with a cross from outside Real Madrid’s penalty area, which was eventually somewhat controlled by the Polish superstar striker. Unfortunately for Barca, Lewandowski’s header was skied over the ball and away from danger.
Lewandowski looked offsides before the cross, so any potential goal would’ve been heavily looked at by VAR. But the half chance still represented Barca’s looming danger in the opening frame, because after this chance, Barca began to create more dangerous scoring chances.
The next chance came just two minutes later, as Lewandowski again found himself threatening. After a loose ball scrum, the ball found its way to Lewandowski, who fired a powerful right footed shot towards the bottom left corner of Thibaut Courtois’ net.
The Belgian then laid a paw on the ball, pushing it aside and away from danger.
Barca were beginning to build a consistent threat, as Real Madrid quite frankly couldn’t find their own opening into the match.
But for some time after Lewandowski’s chance, Barca wasn’t as threatening in the attack. It wasn’t until the 33rd minute, that Barca found their first breakthrough of the match and began to write their own storybook fairy tale for this important cup final.
Gavi scores for Barca
The action started with Sergio Busquets, who uncharacteristically won the ball back in opponent territory after pressing high. The ball then found Lewandowski, who dribbled towards the Madrid penalty area. Lewandowski then found Gavi streaking into a dangerous area.
The most recent Golden Boy winner then took a glorious first touch, settled himself, and fired a slick shot over the outstretched leg of Courtois and into the back of the net.
جااااااااااااااااااااااااااافي قووووووووووووووللللللللللللللللل pic.twitter.com/QpzTuO1tUa
— Meshari (@_i27M) January 15, 2023
It was a great team goal, but Gavi’s finish was the cherry on top. Gavi isn’t known for his finishing, but to see him pull that excellent finish out of his locker was absolutely wonderful.
After the goal, Barca kept prodding, looking for another goal while trying to defend their already slim lead.
Luckily for Barca, they got their second goal, and right before halftime to boot. As Lewandowski got in the scoresheet in El Clasico for the first time of his short Barca career.
Lewandowski scores his 1st El Clasico goal
The second goal was a thing of beauty from Barcelona.
After Barca regained control, Busquets found Frenkie De Jong, who then gracefully fired a difficult looking pass to a streaking Gavi while falling down.
Gavi then dribbled into a high danger area, found an unmarked Lewandowski, and passed a soft ball onto the feet of the Polish star. Lewandowski then simply tapped the ball into the open net, giving Barca a 2-0 lead just before the halftime break.
— الكلاسيكو @HD24i (@hujioppo) January 15, 2023
The goal capped off an inspiring first half from Barca, one that was filled with domination and pure footballing ecstasy.
However, Barca would need another complete half to confirm their good effort would turn into the first trophy won under Xavi Hernandez.
They got that and then some, with another goal and some flashy Tiki-Taka displays later on during the second half.
The second half was more of a prodding half from Barca.
With a 2-0 lead, Barca didn’t want to commit too heavily, therefore potentially leading to some leaks in the defense on the counter attack.
It was a smart move on Xavi’s part, as Barca carefully controlled the midfield and did their absolute best to retain possession so Real Madrid couldn’t put a dent into Barca’s lead.
But when it was time to get another goal, Barca found it, and it was on the back of Gavi’s excellent play on the left wing once again.
Pedri joins the party
The play started with Lewandowski running quickly down the central area of the pitch.
He tried to find someone to lay the ball off to, but he had to wait as no options showed themselves during the initial wave of the attacking phase.
After a few dribbles though, Lewandowski found Gavi running down the left flank once again. Gavi then took his time, scanned the area in front of him, and fired a clean pass across the face of goal.
Gavi’s pass then found the legs of Pedri, who flashed a pretty slick left footed finish to give Barca their third goal of the match.
— الكلاسيكو @HD24i (@hujioppo) January 15, 2023
Once this goal was scored, Barca transitioned into a more cautious period.
They weren’t especially aggressive previously, instead they focused on keeping the ball and defending well when possession wasn’t on their side.
It held up in the end, aside from a useless last minute goal from Karim Benzema, but nonetheless the deed was already done.
Barca won by a score of 3-1, giving Barca their first trophy in over two years, and their first under the guidance of Xavi Hernandez.
This was pure domination from Barca.
A confusing sentence to type considering the recent from Barca were in. Barca had struggled to finish off chances and kill off opponents in previous matches, which made this match somewhat concerning from a Barca perspective.
But instead of putting in a shift like previous matches, Barca put in one of their best performances ever under Xavi.
Hopefully these performances can become a more consistent norm for Barca over the next crucial months of the season. For now though, it’s time to savor this victory and a trophy won for Barca.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match is this Thursday against AD Cueta, Barca’s RO16 match in the Copa Del Rey.
See you all then!