The big games need big performances, and with Lionel Messi only on the bench for Barcelona against Real Madrid in midweek, Ernesto Valverde was counting on Malcom doing the business.
Perhaps the situation was forced upon him by Ousmane Dembele’s injury, because were the Frenchman fit then we would surely have seen him take his place on the right hand side of a front three.
As it was, his omission gave Malcom the chance to get some much-needed minutes under his belt and, hopefully, show the Catalans what he was capable of.Cometh the hour, cometh the man you might say. Malcom was the best player on the pitch and if ever a top-class audition were required, the Brazilian delivered it.
Along with Nelson Semedo who also had one of his best games in a Barcelona shirt, Malcom was almost unplayable against Los Blancos, and Santiago Solari’s decision to play a clearly out of form Marcelo played right in the hosts’ hands.
The left-back is great going forward, not so good at his primary role of defending, and that’s been seen for a while now at the Santiago Bernabeu. However, only Solari has been brave enough to replace Marcelo, preferring Sergio Reguilon over the last few matches.
Every time Barca attacked down Marcelo’s channel, it spelled danger, with Malcom the chief protagonist.
Handed the responsibility of taking free-kicks on that side too, his pinpoint deliveries almost handed the Blaugrana another two goals before the break.
On at least three occasions in the opening 45, Malcom drew fouls from the opposition who were mindful of his pace and trickery.
Though Barcelona’s goal was slightly fortuitous when it arrived, it was no more than they deserved, and it was fitting that Malcom should be the person who provided it.
Having missed a huge chance in the first half when one-on-one with Keylor Navas, the chance that presented itself in the second gave the Brazilian less time to think.
It still required him to take the time to set himself before unleashing a shot goal wards, but the footballing gods were smiling on him on that occasion. He wanted that goal. He needed that goal.
The associated confidence that it will have brought to his play isn’t to be downplayed, and the only downside to his evening was having to leave the pitch earlier than planned because of injury.
With his compatriot, Philippe Coutinho, still struggling badly, Malcom’s emergence couldn’t have come at a better time, and he’s certainly given Ernesto Valverde some food for thought…
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