KENYA BROWN - Sunday, October 25, 2020
Sergino Dest held his own as he played in his first El Clasico for Barcelona, but it will be one he wants to forget as the Catalans fell to heated rivals Real Madrid.
Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid
Real Madrid would put away two second-half goals to claim all three points in their win over Barcelona at the Camp Nou as errors in the midfield and the backline would cost the Blaugrana.
It would be a historic day for Sergino Dest and he was named in the starting lineup, making him the first American to play in El Clasico. He would impress as he went the distance, showing the composure of a veteran player as he manned the right-wing.
El Clasico is always a highly-charged affair between the two of Spain's top teams. However, this time around, it would be a surreal atmosphere as the game was played for the first time in front of empty seats due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the lack of fans, both sides can guarantee it will always be an exciting game.
Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman, who has been working tirelessly to make changes within the aging team, made the decision to start three teenagers in his side - namely Dest, Pedri, and Ansu Fati. In a big such as this one, it took a lot of courage to put in a young trio who have not experienced the intensity of this rivalry.
The host would find themselves down a goal just five minutes into the contest when Karim Benzema played the ball through to Federico Valverde. Barca's backline was left exposed, allowing the Uruguayan midfielder to calmly get his shot past Neto.
However, Koeman's gamble to play Fati from the start paid off three minutes later when the teenaged striker found the back of the net. Jordi Alba received the ball from an over-the-top pass before crossing it into the area for the 17-year-old to steer home.
Both teams started to settle into the game, and Dest showed how much he can provide Barcelona on the right side as he was one of the few bright spots for the team on the day. He was composed in the final third as he took Real Madrid defenders and made some smart tackles at the other end to break up any attacks.
The former Ajax man had a good chance to notch his first assist for Barcelona in the 15th minute when he played the ball to Philippe Coutinho for a crack at goal. However, the Brazilian's shot was saved by Thibaut Courtois.
It would go back and forth for both teams as they headed to their respective locker rooms when the referee blew the whistle for halftime.
The second half would prove to be much of the same despite Barcelona maintaining a majority of the possession.
However, that would all change after the hour mark when VAR intervened following a Real Madrid corner kick. From regular play, Sergio Ramos had thrown himself to the ground in the area after having his shirt tugged by Clement Lenglet a few seconds before. The referee would have a review of the play and later confirm it to be serious enough to warrant a penalty.
A controversial decision in the eyes of Barcelona, but the call was made and Ramos, Real Madrid's captain, stepped to just get the ball past Barcelona goalkeeper Neto to give Los Blancos the lead again.
The host pushed forward to find the equalizer, but Madrid put the game to bed in the 90th minute when Luka Modric toyed with Neto before sending the ball into the goal.
A tough loss for Barcelona as many will question the tactics of Koeman. However, for American fans, it should be a proud day as Dest played well as he hopes to be a mainstay in the lineup from here on out.
Despite the plaudits Dest may have received following the game, he could not hide his frustration afterward.
"It was a really tough match; we had chances, they had chances," he said. "It's too bad that we lost. They were maybe a little sharper. They finished their chances. I am pissed that we lost. It's my first Clasico and it's a nice game to play, of course."
Barcelona has dropped to 12th place in the La Liga standings with seven points.