80,000 people packed the Bernabeau on Saturday, April 16, to watch the first of 4 epic battles between the best two clubs in Europe. The expectations were high and the leaders of each team didn’t disappoint. Both goals were scored through penalty kicks, one by Leo Messi (his record breaking 49th goal of the season and 30th in La Liga) and the other by Cristiano Ronaldo (82’ minute, his 29th of La Liga). Mourinho’s strategy worked for most of the match as Real Madrid held Barca’s notorious counter attacks in check. From the first 10 minutes, it was clear that this would not be another 5-0 thrashing. However, a momentum swing occurred when Raul Albiol was sent off with a red card in the 50th minute after putting a choke hold on David Villa leading to the first PK. Madrid were forced to play the rest of the match only 10 men. Mou was tired of seeing this scenario but proud of the way his squad played. All in all, Barca dominated the possession, but RM took advantage of countering opportunities and Casillas got the best of the goalkeeper matchup. Mou moved Pepe to the midfield (where he sometimes plays with Portugal) and Ozil was benched until a later substitution. I expect both Ozil and Lass to start for Wednesday’s Copa del Rey match in Valencia (El Mestalla).
Mou did make two predictable and strategic substitutions in the 2nd half (Adebayor and Ozil). Both players provided energy and made fantastic runs but unfortunately neither could find the back of the ol’ onion bag. Adebayor had two clear chances but took suspect touches which proved rather disappointing.
Barca players, coaches, and managers argued for a penalty in the 27th minute after David Villa beat Casillas to a Messi through-ball yet Iker still managed to get some type of tackle on Villa before a shot was released. Both sides thought that the refereeing was inconsistent throughout the game with Cesar Muniz Fernandez issuing 8 cards, most of which went to Barca. Personally, I thought Mr. Fernandez did an excellent job for the difficult circumstances and never let the game get out of his control, which can happen rather easily in a clásico.
Some other notes from the match included–In the 49th minute, CR7 hit his traditional knuckleball free kick that beat the keeper, Valdes, but couldn’t beat the goal post. His accuracy with these types of free kicks is truly deadly. Higuain and Kaka didn’t play but I expect to see both of them in the next 3 matches. Xavi (the brain of Barca) played magnificently and always manages to slip through the most creative through balls. Even as a Madridista, I can that Mr. Hernandez puts on a show every match and is a living legend. Benzema and Pedro (usually a Madrid killer) were very, very quiet and didn’t get many touches. Puyol surprised most by being fit for this match; however, he had to exit early due to leg pain (substituted by Keita). Di Maria provided some great touches up the wing but may have tried to beat one too many players.
The stakes rise this Wednesday for the King’s Cup Final. Look for Mou to switch up the lineup. Pep will probably start both Keita and Maserchano. Prediction: 2-1 for Madrid in another epic thriller.
About the Author
Written by Timothy Ashe Jr.
Tim was born and raised in Downers Grove, IL (a suburb of Chicago). He graduated with a degree in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign and also holds University English Language Excellence certificates. He's fluent in Spanish and teaches both English and Spanish in his spare time. He's a Real Madrid and Chicago Fire aficionado and is partial towards the EPL and LFP. His hope is that the game of soccer can continue to grow in the U.S.A. and for our men's national team to eventually win the World Cup.