Tense El Clásico marred by Catalan separatist clashes outside Camp Nou

December 19 – Barcelona and Real Madrid drew 0-0 at Camp Nou in El Clásico that failed to live up to its name on the pitch but delivered fierce clashes off it. The hosts remain top of La Liga on goal difference, but the game was overshadowed by cries for Catalan independence and violence outside the stadium, injuring 46 people.  

Gareth Bale’s disallowed goal was the closest the visitors came to breaking the deadlock, but Real left-back Ferland Mendy was judged offside in the build-up. Defending champions Barcelona stay ahead of Real on goal difference, third-placed Sevilla lost against Villareal.

In October, the game had been postponed over independence protests in Barcelona. Inside the stadium there were cries  for Catalan independence and yellow beach balls interrupted play momentarily.

Outside the Camp Nou, protesters set bins on fire and threw rocks and glass bottles at police, who responded by firing foam bullets. Forty-six people were injured and five people were arrested, according to a police spokesman. Protesters carrying Catalan separatist flags barricaded streets.

“There was tension in the game and I noticed when some yellow balls fell down,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. “But nothing more. We tried to give a sense of normality.”

“Everyone wanted to see a good football match,” said Real coach Zinedine Zidane. “In that sense I think we can be happy.”

Zidane’s words were scarcely accurate. El Clásico could not deliver the great drama of the Messi-Ronaldo era. Messi, who has 14 goals this season already, was off colour and Real imposed their game largely in the second half, but with Bale’s goal disallowed El Clásico was destined to end the way it had begun. The teams will battle again, as will the political factions.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1600965632labto1600965632ofdlr1600965632owedi1600965632sni@o1600965632fni1600965632