Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona
(Messi 76′, 87′)
Red Card: Pepe 61′
After what happened around the 87th minute in the match at Santiago Bernabeu, people have forgot what happened before. The little magician put on display another great piece of skill and this time against the mighty Real Madrid in an El Clásico. Barcelona won 2-0 away in the first leg and almost sealed a place in the finals where they are most likely face the same opponents they faced two years back at this level.
Barcelona had a long injury list and the narrowness of the squad was very much apparent tonight when coach Pep Guardiola had to struggle to field a fit eleven who are able to handle the pressure of El Clásico at Santiago Bernabeu. With Abidal, Adriano and Maxwell missing due to injuries Pep in fact had no left back to field and had to fit Puyol there looking at his experience in the early days of his career. Mascherano had to fit in as the centre back to partner Pique. Keita replaced the injured Iniesta as the attacking midfielder. On the other hand Real Madrid missed at least two starters with Carvalho being suspended and Khedira injured. Raul Albiol and Lass Diarra filled the empty slots as Mourinho planned to start with the same formation he used in the last two El Clásico he coached.
Boring First Half:
Mourinho accepted the fact in post match press conference that he wanted to keep it 0-0 in the first half and the display of his team showed in the full 45 minutes in the first half. The match became a show of rough tackles and play acting and both teams competed each other in both. Real Madrid won the tackling part while Barcelona players passed the acting test. Real Madrid had no intention of going for an attack in the first half and Barcelona could not get much ahead in the Madrid half and were content playing the passing game in their own half. With so many players missing, none of the fullbacks dared to go forward and with no Iniesta and Pedro preferring to remain silent, all was left to Messi and Xavi to combine and attack and Villa to make a few runs. Other than a couple of shots by Xavi and Villa and a few surging runs by Messi the first half had nothing to offer. After two not-so-skilful el clásico ties it was getting more towards worse and the referee preferred to give the players some rest after 2 minutes of injury time.
Half Time Brawl:
The tempers were high and frustrations were rising due to failure to do anything notable by the players of both teams. At such a moment when Keita and Arbeloa came close to each other sparks flew between them and when the stewards were separating them, Pinto thought of lighting some fire by grabbing one of them. In his one of the few notable jobs outside Copa del Rey, Jose Manuel Pinto was awarded the highest possible prize, a red card. Now his statistics will have a red card in Champions League to show off his involvement in Barcelona’s European adventure.
The Match Starts:
Mourinho successfully executed his first half plan and took his next step by putting in a striker, Adebayor in place of tired Özil at the half time. The game was opening up a little bit as Real Madrid was going on attacks and Barcelona were trying to find some loopholes in their defence. Mourinho says his plan was to play a playmaker behind 3 strikers in the few ending minutes. But his plan had to be stalled when Pepe decided to follow the recent tradition in El Clásico to make dangerous charge on Dani Alves with his studs up on his sin and get sent off at the 61st minute. And this makes the sixth straight el clásico to have a player sent off at any stage of the game. (Though I feel Pinto had done his duties during half time and Pepe need not have done that just to keep up with tradition.) The foul was a hard one but a straight red is debated by many and Dani Alves’s coming back to field minutes after it looked like his career was in danger made it look more dubious.
With a player sent off and that too Pepe, who was instrumental in stopping the Blaugrana juggernaut in the last two matches, Real Madrid defence became vulnerable. Already missing Carvalho, Real Madrid could not cope with the pressure that Barcelona gradually built up taking a full control on the game. Substitute Afellay took on Marcelo and beat him with pace before putting in a perfect cross for Messi to give them a lead and a sigh of relief. Trailing 0-1 at home in the first leg of a two-leg tie to Barcelona is a difficult situation to be put in and 10 galacticos could not come out of that. Barcelona continued their display of possession and passing to control the game and it became almost sure that nothing much was to come from it.
When Messi got the ball near the half line near the end of the match it was an ordinary situation and when he passed the ball to Busquets it was normal. Busquets held the ball and waited for Messi to run around the defender to take it from him and make a run. And what a run he made! Running through the Madrid defence getting away from the challenges coming his way with great control and speed the little magician entered the penalty box in between Marcelo and Arbeloa and finished off with a clinical cool minded finish beyond Iker Casillas. The match was surely over at that moment and the tie almost over too. The last few minutes saw Sergi Roberto see football at Santiago Bernabeu for a few minutes coming in for David Villa.
Jose Mourinho is one of the most important figures in this match. First initiating a verbal duel with Pep Guardiola before the match and making a lots of statements about Barcelona’s use of power in the champions league to force a win, and then getting himself sent off to stands commenting to the referee after Pepe was shown a red card. Even after the match Mourinho made his stand clear by stating that if he said to press what he felt, it might end his career. And may be just to make Barcelona fans’ sweet night a bit sour he commented, “Guardiola is a great coach. But I would be ashamed if I won the Champions League the way his team won two years back.” Man, he knows what to say, any time!
Real Madrid have almost accepted that the road to Champions League final is blocked with a 0-2 deficit and a match at Nou Camp left. May be it is a new tactics used by canny Mourinho to shift the pressure of expectations, but seriously thinking, Mourinho was speaking almost the truth when he said that winning the tie is impossible. Madrid will miss Pepe and Ramos and most probably miss Khedira still. Though Carvalho will be back by then but the role played by Pepe, or the absence of it, will make the difference the next day. On the other hand Barcelona will have the services of Andres Iniesta in that tie. The worst part of the loss is that Madrid could not even have a single clear chance for goal even in the 61 minutes they played with 11 men. Cristiano Ronaldo was invisible on the ground with Puyol back to keep him silent. A win by a margin of 2 goals at Camp Nou is not a thing to even dream off looking at the current form of the Barcelona side. But again, if any team and any coach can do it, they are Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho.