ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Just a couple of days before the calendar flips to August, and the fervor of football fandom kicks into full force, the football-mad area of the country that follows the every move of the team known for the star on its helmet got a chance to see a collection of stars playing a different yet-just-as-entertaining brand of football at the highest level.
The latest edition one of the greatest rivalries on the planet took place on American soul, as La Liga giants FC Barcelona and Real Madrid C.F. squared off in the matchup known as El Clásico, the third time in history that this contest took place on American soul. And like the two previous instances, in 2017 and last year, it was he Catalans who came away with the victory, as Ousmane Dembélé’s strike midway through the first half paced Barcelona to a 3-0 victory over Los Merengues.
Both teams are part of the Soccer Champions Tour, the preseason exhibition of some of the best European soccer teams who play a series of matches across the United States, though any matchup between Los Blancos and the Blaugrana will always have an overwhelming sense of urgency and intensity. Today’s matchup was no different, with both squads fielding, for all intents and purposes, their first-choice lineups to start the contest, pleasing the over 82,000-plus fans who packed into AT&T Stadium, the regular home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
Real Madrid dominated possession and created many more scoring chances in the first half, but somehow did not convert any of their chances into goals, with a staggering five shots in the contest hitting the woodwork. One of those chances came on a first-half penalty that was awarded when Barca defender Ronald Araujo stuck out a hand on a cross from Federico Valverde. Without the departed Karim Benzema, it was Vinicius Jr. who stepped up to the spot, and although he had goalkeeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen going the wrong way, his spot kick hit the post and Madrid remained scoreless.
That missed chance came soon after Barcelona took the lead on a slick set piece that Dembélé scored on in the 15th minute. New signing Ilkay Gündogan pulled a free back back to the top of the box for Pedri, who appeared to set up for a long-distance effort before sliding a pass to a cutting Dembélé on the right flank, and the Frenchman blasted a shot into the far corner and past Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
As Madrid pushed for the equalizer, and continued to miss chance after chance in its pursuit of it, Barcelona put the match away with two late second-half tallies from some of their depth players. In the 85th minute, Fermín López latched onto the ball after a turnover in the back from Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos and hammered a left-footed shot from outside the box that nestled toward the top corner of the net.
Fitting of the tone of this latest El Clásico, Vinicius Jr. once again hit the crossbar after a slaloming run past Sergiño Dest, and, afterward, Barca extended their lead to three on a Ferran Torres tap in after he wan past Courtois after gaining possession and popping the ball above the goalkeeper’s head.
Real Madrid will get a chance to get revenge on their eternal rivals when the first El Clásico of the regular season kicks off on October 29 at the Montjuic Stadium in Barcelona. (Barcelona’s regular home, the Camp Nou, is undergoing renovations and will not be ready in time for that pre-Halloween matchup.) The game at the Santiago Bernabeu will take place on April 21, 2024.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday evening’s contest, with all photos taken by Dallas-area photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 76 pictures in total.