Luis Suarez inspired Barcelona past Real Madrid and into the Copa del Rey final. Michael Hincks looks at the biggest talking points from Wednesday’s El Clasico at the Bernabeu. With the semi-final finely poised at 1-1 going into the return leg, it was Suarez’s second-half double, as well as a Raphael Varane own goal, which proved decisive as holders Barcelona reached a sixth-straight Copa del Rey final. The 3-0 victory on enemy territory came after a series of missed chances for Real, who will have to brush off the defeat quickly with another Clasico on the horizon this Saturday…
A lesson in finishing
It proved to be a tough evening for Vinicius Jr on his home Clasico debut. The 18-year-old was at the heart of every Real chance in the first half, but failed to convert four opportunities, sending two of those attempts over when he arguably should have hit the target. Vinicius is undoubtedly a star in the making, but the winger evidently needs to fine-tune his finishing, and Wednesday night proved to be a harsh reminder of what the consequences can be. It was 32-year-old Suarez who delivered such a lesson after the break. Following a frustrating first half, the Uruguayan scored with Barcelona’s first attempt on target, calmly letting the ball roll over onto his right foot before slotting it in at the near post beyond Keylor Navas. Suarez, who had gone five games without a goal before scoring at Sevilla on Saturday, then had the audacity to score a Panenka at the Bernabeu for his second on the night, proving confidence can be reignited regardless of the rut you may have been in. Vinicius will have taken notes.
Bale made to wait
Despite scoring the winning goal in Sunday’s league win over Levante, it was Gareth Bale’s muted celebration which grabbed the headlines in Spain as he shunned the congratulations of Lucas Vazquez. After Real boss Santiago Solari was faced with numerous questions in his pre-match press conference about dressing-room fallouts – with Bale central to the discussions – it was no surprise to see the Wales forward take his place on the bench once more, hours after he had been cleared to feature following another controversial celebration earlier in the month. Bale – who has started just two of the last nine games – simply had to watch on as Real missed chance after chance in the first half, and the 29-year-old would be forgiven for thinking he could have converted at least one of those opportunities. He eventually replaced Vazquez in the 68th minute, but was powerless to prevent what happened in the next five minutes as Barca scored twice to take the game beyond Real. Going into Saturday’s Clasico at the Bernabeu, Solari will be faced with a stick or twist decision. Does he keep faith with Vinicius and Vazquez? Or will Bale, or even Marco Asensio, get the nod on the wings? Unless fatigue plays a part, you would suspect Solari will favour the former.