Mohamed Salah of Liverpool celebrates with Jordan Henderson after scoring the first goal –– Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool, UEFA Champions League Final, Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, Madrid –– June 1, 2019
Featuring possibly the two most anticipated league games of the year, October 16 was highly anticipated amongst soccer fans. The first game was the 185th El Clásico between Real Madrid and Barcelona, which kicked off at 10:15 a.m. at the Santiago Bernabéu. After that was Liverpool vs. Manchester City, two of the biggest clubs in the Premier League.
Real Madrid and Barcelona entered the game level on points, but it was Real Madrid who managed to take all three points after a dominant performance in front of their home crowd.
Despite Barcelona controlling the majority of possession in the early stages of the game, Real Madrid struck first through Karim Benzema in the 12th minute. The Barcelona defense was caught out with a high line, allowing Vinícius Júnior to run through and get a shot off. Ter Stegen made an initial save, but Benzema calmly finished from the rebound. Barcelona had their chances in their first half with Robert Lewandowski and Ousmane Dembélé, but just ten minutes before halftime, Federico Valverde doubled Real Madrid’s lead in spectacular fashion. The goal adds to a wonderful start to his season in La Liga.
After a halftime talk that presumably looked very different for both teams, Barcelona came out looking more comfortable. Xavi, the Barcelona manager, used all five of his available substitutes, most notably Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati for Raphinha and Dembélé. The goal finally came for Barcelona in the 83rd minute from substitute Ferran Torres. Lewandowski flicked on a pass from Fati which left Torres with an open net at the back post. This positive run of play was in vain for Barcelona though, as Rodrygo’s penalty eight minutes later sealed the win for Los Blancos.
A man of the match award for Karim Benzema in this game set up the perfect week for him. The day after the game, he won the Ballon d’Or, the game’s most prestigious individual award in soccer, while also scoring in Real Madrid's mid-week win against Elche Club de Fútbol (Elche CF).
There was no time for people to catch their breath with the Liverpool vs. Manchester City game kicking off just over an hour after El Clásico. Both managers made bold decisions in their team selections and formations. The game’s importance was enough to have both managers Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola stray from their usual formations and opt for something unfamiliar. Manchester City was an understandably strong favorite, enjoying an unbeaten start to the season, compared to Liverpool who had struggled to get going.
Once the game kicked off, it was everything people could have hoped for. Anfield’s electric atmosphere brought energy into the game. Manchester City dominated the chances in the first half, with the constant threat of the star summer signing, Erling Haaland. Up until this point, Haaland had only not scored in one Premier League game, and it seemed like no team could stop him. However, at halftime, the score remained 0-0.
In the 53rd minute, Manchester City finally thought they had found their breakthrough. A rebound fell kindly to Phil Foden, who smashed the ball in from close range. However, the video assistant referee (VAR) reviewed the play and called a foul. The goal was revoked, reviving Anfield’s hope.
The chances went back and forth, until in the 76th minute, when Alisson Becker sent a long-range punt through to Mohammed Salah. Despite missing a similar chance earlier, Salah made no mistake on his second opportunity, finishing past Ederson, and causing Anfield to erupt. Late game frenzies and a Klopp red card were not enough for Manchester City to get back into the game, and it was Liverpool who were victorious.