Fridolina Rolfo’s second-half penalty decided a tight Liga F Clasico for Barcelona against Real Madrid on Saturday evening, earning a 1-0 win which sent the Catalan hosts 13 points clear at the top of the table.
Madrid started boldly, resisting the natural urge to hunker down against the revered might of their rivals and instead tried to put Barcelona under pressure. Although, that’s not to say that the Catalans didn’t stroke the ball around the Estadi Johan Cruyff turf, picking out angles which would have tickled the Dutchman nicknamed Pythagoras in boots.
Alberto Toril’s visitors limited the runaway league leaders to just a single shot on target in a diligent and disciplined first half which saw Real offer just as much attacking threat – even if neither goalkeeper was overworked.
With the second leg of a Champions League last-16 tie to come against Roma on Wednesday, Jonatan Giraldez made four changes to the Barcelona side that could only earn a 1-0 win in the Italian capital last midweek. After a frustrating opening hour devoid of any discernible chances, the 31-year-old coach turned to his bench.
Caroline Graham Hansen was one of the additions and swiftly found herself on the end of the clearest opening of the match. Sneaking in at the back post from the second phase of a corner, Graham Hansen had ample space to meet the cross but nodded a limp effort into Misa Rodriguez’s gloves.
The Norwegian winger proved more potent as the provider. Moments after teeing up Patri Guijarro for a similarly weak header, Graham Hansen was on the end of a quickly taken free kick, tossing the ball into the middle of a chaotic penalty area. Amid the maelstrom, Athenea del Castillo – one of Real’s substitutes – hooked her right arm and leg around Salma Paralluelo, who gratefully accepted the invitation to tumble to the turf, earning a penalty which left Toril wagging his finger in disbelief and disgust.
Rolfo nervelessly slotted her spot kick into the bottom corner with just 13 minutes left on the clock. As Madrid desperately tossed bodies forward in search of an equaliser they may not have needed with a different referee, Rolfo had space on the counter to add a second which wasn’t forthcoming.
Real Madrid may have lost their 11th consecutive Clasico – every edition of this fresh rivalry – but they can take confidence from becoming the first team to limit Barcelona to just one goal in a Liga F game this season. Although, with the sting of defeat and injustice still raw, that will offer little consolation.
GK: Sandra Panos – 7/10 – Always alert when forced into defensive intervention even after large swathes of inaction.
RB: Lucy Bronze – 6/10 – Tentatively grew into the game, offering an overload down the right which Ana Maria Crnogorcevic very much needed.
CB: Marta Torrejon – 5/10 – By her lofty standards, Torrejon was uncharacteristically slack when building up from the back.
CB: Mapi Leon – 7/10 – Capable of slicing Madrid open with a scalpel of a left foot.
LB: Fridolina Rolfo – 6/10 – Despite her natural attacking instincts, Rolfo made sure to track back (begrudgingly) when Madrid mounted a sporadic attack.
CM: Aitana Bonmati – 7/10 – Popping up all over the pitch, invariably in a square of green grass unblemished by a white shirt.
CM: Ingrid Syrstad Engen – 7/10 – Sweeping up at the base of midfield, one of the few fixed points around which the buzzing Blaugrana shirts pivoted.
CM: Patri Guijarro – 6/10 – Unerringly comfortable in possession even in the tightest of spaces.
RW: Ana Maria Crnogorcevic – 3/10 – Lacked the craft and guile to trick her way down the right.
ST: Geyse – 4/10 – Sloppy with the timing of her runs and her tackling – little details that stood out in the absence of any clear chances.
LW: Salma Paralluelo – 6/10 – Increasingly drifted infield to limit her isolation and open a channel out wide for Rolfo to canter into. In the right place to tempt Del Castillo into a rash challenge.
Caroline Graham Hansen (60′ for Crnogorcevic) – 8/10 – Injected an urgency and elegance into Barcelona’s frontline which changed the game.
Asisat Oshoala (60′ for Geyse) – 5/10
Keira Walsh (60′ for Engen) – 5/10
Irene Paredes (67′ for Torrejon) – 5/10
Vicky Lopez (83′ for Paralluelo) – N/A
Jonatan Giraldez – 6/10 – Ultimately his changes made the difference but will be worried about the lack of chances Barcelona created for an hour.
GK: Misa Rodriguez – 7/10 – Not exactly adhesive with her handling but got her gloves in the way of plenty of shots and crosses.
RB: Kenti Robles – 5/10 – More concerned with taking the ball off the toes of Paralluelo rather than picking out a teammate once she had won possession.
CB: Ivana Andres – 6/10 – The captain delivered an uncompromising display, heaving the ball clear when left with few other options.
CB: Kathellen Sousa – 7/10 – Exploited her supreme swiftness across the turf to track as many red and blue blurs as she could.
LB: Sofie Svava – 7/10 – Proved to be a stubborn obstacle which Crnogorcevic struggled to hurdle.
CM: Sandie Toletti – 7/10 – Safe rather than spectacular with her passing but gobbled up a raft of loose balls in midfield.
CM: Claudia Zornoza – 5/10 – Unnecessarily overeager with her work off the ball at times.
AM: Caroline Weir – 6/10 – Hassled the Barcelona backline diligently but saw precious little of the ball.
RW: Maite Oroz – 5/10 – A veteran of all 11 Clasicos, Oroz skirted around the fringes of the contest.
ST: Esther Gonzalez – 6/10 – There is no lost cause for the infectious scraper.
LW: Linda Caicedo – 5/10 – The Colombian prodigy flickered in and out of the game.
Naomie Feller (60′ for Esther) – 5/10
Athenea del Castillo (70′ for ) – 3/10 – Provided precisely the opposite impact Toril was looking for.
Olga Carmona (70′ for Caicedo) – 5/10
Freja Olofsson (86′ for Zornoza) – N/A
Alberto Toril – 5/10 – Set his side up in an admirably obdurate shape that defended beyond their penalty area. Unfortunate to be undone by a soft spot kick.