The clash was billed as a new chapter in the fierce rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid, a rivalry that has always been about much more than football, touching on politics, autonomy and governance. A rivalry that echoes the complexities of Spain’s past, Franco’s legacy and Catalan ideals. There is a logic to saying that any affiliated Real Madrid team playing any affiliated Barcelona team would carry on the animosity.
But Tacón is a four-year-old club that is and isn’t Real Madrid, a club that plays all in white but whose kits have Tacón’s heeled boot emblem rather than Madrid’s white, blue and gold badge. The club has made landmark signings, bringing Kosovare Asllani over from Linköping, Sofia Jakobsson from Montpellier HSC and the experienced Aurélie Kaci from Atletico Madrid, but there is a lack of balance. A handful of players have been brought in from local mid-range Primera Iberdrola clubs, Madrid CFF and Rayo Vallecano, with some promoted from Tacón’s youth team. Just like the club that doesn’t quite know if it’s Tacón or Real, the team suffers the same fate. Asllani is Real where Ariana Arias is Tacón.
A club that isn’t one but not the other, pushing a tag of “El Clásico” onto Saturday’s tie felt hollow before a ball had been kicked, not least because Barcelona Femení have their own rivalries separate from the men’s side. Denied the league title for three consecutive seasons by Atleti, Barça already have a rival from the Spanish capital, and they play in white and red.
The match, contested between a team that have been consistently in the top two in Spain for eight years but who only reach the UEFA Women’s Champions League final a few months ago, and a team just promoted from the regional second tier went as well as many would have expected. Playing the first match in their new home, the Estadi Johan Cruyff, Barcelona pushed against the visiting defence until it crumbled.
The attack that had been bolstered by world class signings looked half dangerous when the team got forward but the midfield and defence that failed to boast the same pedigree was little match for the hosts. Trying to play out from the back, Lucía Suárez panicked as Asisat Oshoala chased her down, her square ball across the top of the box was poorly struck, her focus keeping the ball from Oshoala so much that she didn’t see Mariona lurking. The blue and red shirts flocked as Alexia Putellas had nothing but space and time to send the ball home after receiving the ball from Mariona, Tacón masters of their own downfall.
As the match went on it was the mistakes from the visitors that gifted Barcelona their goals, they tried to maintain a shape but too often it fell apart, too often they let the hosts have more space than was sensible. Too frequently the line they played as suicidally high and with a regularity they were beaten with balls in behind, the team failing to learn and adapt as the match went on.
There were high-points of the game from a Tacón point of view: their first goal in the league, scored by Jessica Martínez, some of their work across the park to do what they could to stand toe-to-toe with Barça, and of course, the countless number of saves pulled off by Yohana Goméz. Barcelona scored nine but missed far too many easy chances; a score of 16-1 wouldn’t have been a thousand miles from reality even if it would have left a rancid taste.
No shouts of timber just yet
It’s not all doom and gloom for Tacón/Real; the team has barely been together for two minutes and spending more time together on the pitch will markedly improve the standard. Just as actually playing in the league will improve the team and the coaching, so too the facilities at the Ciudad Real Madrid will benefit the players the longer they’re there. And of course, there is the little matter of the winter transfer window which will undoubtedly see more players of a higher standard brought in to help the team bridge the gap. By the time Tacón play their first match as Real Madrid next season, the 9-1 will be a painful memory that exists to push the team, a ghost from the past.
As for El Clásico? It’s completely possible that in time, the club that is soon to be known as Real Madrid Femenino [sic] will rise to the top of the league with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, that the rivalry that combines the past and the present in Spanish history will transfer itself over to the two teams. But for now, Barcelona only have eyes for Atleti and Tacón (the Heels), have much smaller fish to fry, starting with Huelva on Saturday.