Real Madrid holds a tense Classic and remains undefeated leader of the Euroleague

Real Madrid holds a tense Classic and remains undefeated leader

Tight Merengue victory 65-64, with a stellar Deck


Real Madrid won this Thursday at home by a tight 65-64 against Barça on matchday 5 of the Euroleague in its Regular Phase, with a stellar Gaby Deck to command the fifth victory for the meringues, the only ones already undefeated in the competition.

At the WiZink Center, and after two fruitless attacks by each team, the culés started strong thanks to the Czech Jan Vesely. A triple by Álex Abrines culminated a 2-9 partial and the merengue team entrusted themselves to Walter Tavares, author of the first six points in their locker (6-9).

Another basket by Vesely and a triple by his compatriot Tomas Satoransky once again stretched the visitors’ lead (6-14), forcing Chus Mateo to spend time out and move pieces. Sergio Rodríguez, Sergio Llull and Rudy Fernández came onto the field, after a referee stoppage due to the review of a play, and Roger Grimau took the opportunity to put Willy Hernangómez on.

The former Real Madrid center, whistled during the warm-up, contributed with a dunk to help his team maintain a +9 advantage. The team coached by Mateo had little fuel until the Frenchman Vincent Poirier, at the first quarter buzzer, made it 12-19 by ‘grabbing’ a rebound.

His connection with ‘Chacho’ Rodríguez seemed vital for Barça not to escape, even more so when the absence of fellow Frenchman Guerschon Yabusele in Madrid’s inside game was known, due to some discomfort in his left knee. Meanwhile, the culé’s versatility was noticeable in the long shots and the fluidity of the passes to Hernangómez.

Darío Brizuela joined in, while Hernangómez raised his production to over ten and moved Barça away (12-23). Poirier’s awakening, ‘alley-oop’ included with ‘Chacho’, helped reduce the gap (16-23); but the white team was missing aim from beyond the arc.

A couple of missed triples by Llull, another two missed by Rudy and another by ‘Chacho’ reflected Real Madrid’s problems in stopping an opponent who stood at +14 (16-30) on the back of Hernangómez, looking best rebounding statistic. It also didn’t help Madrid’s interests that the Croatian forward Mario Hezonja was discreet.

The solution to stop this hemorrhage came with an Argentine accent, with Gaby Deck acting as the executor of the luxury passes that Facundo Campazzo invented. The score was 23-30 on the stadium’s electronic scoreboard and Hernangómez wasted two free throws, under pressure from the Berserkers stands; and that spurred the Madrid team, which pressed in defense.

A steal of the ball by Campazzo gave Deck a dunk on the counterattack and, to make matters worse, Hernangómez immediately committed a foul in attack that gave Real Madrid the last possession of the second quarter. Mateo’s strategy for those moments worked through Deck, who hit a three-pointer at the buzzer that was celebrated by the stands (28-30).

The third period began with the merengue team taking the lead for the first time, thanks to another ‘flock’ by Poirier in the rival ring and a penetration by Deck to the basket (32-30). He himself preserved the local advantage (36-34) after a new assist from Campazzo, making it clear to the Argentines that they lived better within the ‘paint’.

The horrible 1/15 in triples that Real Madrid had made during the first half was joined by a bad streak by Abrines at Barça, so neither of the two teams hit the table. Oscar Da Silva briefly returned the advantage to the Blaugranas (36-37), this time with a triple, but that ‘ipso facto’ was answered by another from Hezonja.

Deck placed first the 41-37, on the board, and later the 44-39, in a similar 2+1 action. With 2:59 left in the third period, Mateo’s pupils became emboldened; This was evident at 46-39 on an alley-oop by Poirier, after a pass from Dzanan Musa who showed more skill after the break.

On the culé side they needed the same from the American power forward Jabari Parker, with no points in the first two acts of a duel whose low figures invited us not to get nervous. Grimau, upon receiving a technical foul, expressed the collapse that was slowly growing in Barça; and his team paid for it by falling behind (49-39), one minute away from the 30th minute.

Poirier, in a state of grace for several months, showed his claws to establish the 51-41 with the fourth quarter then began. The French center, relentless in attacking rebounds, scored 53-41 and later Llull opened his account with two free throws (55-41). Despite the gray version of Mahón’s point guard, Real Madrid was extinguishing the stopwatch well.

The vitality of Rokas Jukubaitis, who scored six points when things were looking worst for Grimau’s team, prevented the Madrid team from ending the Clásico much sooner. But there were few heroes among the visitors to try the comeback with the young Lithuanian point guard, since Hernangómez had dried up and Kalinic was failing.

In two triples from the Serbian forward, both crashed with the rim, the definitive encouragement of Barça could have been while the 58-52 was immovable. Despite everything, the Catalan team sold their skin dearly, as a result of two free throws scored by Abrines (58-54) and which livened up the last minute and a half.

Even Campazzo missed all-important free throws (59-54), when a timeout with 1:16 left gave way to two flashes by Satoransky. First with a 2+1, charging the foul to Hezonja, and then with a steal of the ball, woven into a quick counterattack, he sealed the 59-59 for the culé hope. There the heroes of both sides had to appear.

Campazzo redeemed himself by converting two free throws (61-59) and then it was Abrines who grabbed stripes for a penetration. The Barça captain reached the end line, but missed the board and Hezonja cleared the ball; However, fortune wanted it to touch Jokubaitis’s right hand before leaving.

A long period of referee review was a prelude to an eternal 17.4 seconds. With possession in their favor, Real Madrid forced a foul and once again Campazzo found himself facing the personnel line. He scored the first (62-59), but his failure in the second gave wings to a rival whose faith rested in Satoransky.

The Czech only scored the second (62-60) and there was one déjà vu after another. Next Madrid attack settled with the only free kick scored by ‘Facu’ (63-60), and subsequent culé offensive resolved with ‘Sato’ returning to the free kicks; On this occasion, there were three that he would throw, in accordance with an arbitration decision protested by the pavilion.

With ‘Sato’ scoring just one, Hezonja emerged as the trusted man. He captured the decisive rebound and there the Barça options for a comeback disappeared. The Croatian himself made it 65-61 with two free throws and a three-pointer from Abrines made up the result. Leadership, undefeated and alone, for Real Madrid.


–RESULT: REAL MADRID, 65 – BARÇA, 64 (28-30, at half-time).


REAL MADRID: Campazzo (6), Deck (20), Musa (4), Abalde (-) and Tavares (8) — starting quintet–; Poirier (14), Hezonja (7), Sergio Rodriguez (4), Rudy Fernandez (-), Llull (2) and Ndiaye (-).

BARÇA: Satoransky (10), Abrines (11), Kalinic (7), Da Silva (3) and Vesely (12) –starting quintet–; Brizuela (2), Hernangómez (15), Parker (-), Nnaji (-), Jokubaitis (6) and Parra (-).

–PARTIALS: 12-19, 16-11, 23-11 and 14-23.

–REFEREES: Belosevic, Nedovic and Kardum. Satoransky was eliminated at Barça due to personal fouls.

–PAVILLION: WiZink Center, 11,432 spectators.

–INCIDENTS: Before starting the match, a minute of silence was observed for the recent death of businessman Fernando Fernández-Tapias, first vice president of Real Madrid.