José Mourinho was rendered speechless during Barcelona’s 5-0 humiliation of Real Madrid in an El Clásico which reaffirmed victory for beautiful football. Fortune favours the brave, well not in Mourinho’s case when he decided on persevering with the attacking talents of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Ángel di María and Mesut Özil knowing full well his defenders did not have enough defensive cover in midfield.
Conceivably Mourinho reveled in Real Madrid’s attacking mindset (33 goals in 12 games) going into El Clásico and it influenced his decision to discard a park the bus approach against Barcelona. When Mourinho’s Inter Milan memorably triumphed against Barcelona, Samuel Eto’o was playing as an auxiliary defensive winger selflessly playing for the team whereas Ronaldo offered nothing in attack let alone defence on the right flank. In hindsight, playing Özil as an additional creative midfielder given his lack of defensive ability (unlike di Maria who tracks back) was a costly gamble. Mourinho’s half time substation of Özil for Lassana Diarra confirmed the doubt which had lingered in his mind, to start or not to start defensive midfielder Diarra. Like Benzema (who again failed to grasp his opportunity), Özil at times drifts out of the game which will be of concern to Mourinho.
It was naïve even foolhardy of Mourinho to think he could beat Barcelona with attacking football. Once bitten, twice shy as come next El Clásico, Mourinho will set his team out with the same mentality cricketer Chris Tavaré had when batting for England – defend, defend and defend.
Uncharacteristically the one thing Mourinho’s Real Madrid did not do well was defend. Marcelo was caught out time after time after time and his slack marking was best illustrated when from behind, Pedro sneaked in front of him to score having just received a verbal barrage from Marcelo for diving. Sergio Ramos spent more time hacking down Barcelona players then he did defending. His Pepe like brain snap towards the end of the match where he scythed down Lionel Messi from behind, pushed Carles Puyol to the floor and palmed Xavi in the face will earn him a lengthy suspension. It remains to be seen how Ramos will repair the irreconcilable damage he has done to team unity in the Spanish national team.
When playing for Manchester United, Ronaldo scored one goal in 15 games against Chelsea, two goals in 11 games against Liverpool, though his record against Arsenal is better (six goals in 15 games), he goes missing when the going gets tough and this is reinforced by his indifferent display for Portugal in this year’s World Cup and the fact he has yet to score a goal in six career games against Barcelona. Tonight Ronaldo sulked on the right flank, giving up on his teammates whilst Messi silenced the minority of doubters with a world class performance.
To sum up tonight’s El Clásico, I’ll leave you with Mourinho’s succinct reaction, “We played very, very badly and they were fantastic”.
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Written by Allan Jiang
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