We watched Wednesday’s Clásico in its entirety with spirited company at WoodworkBK. We had the sense then that Barcelona slowly took control after the early goal by Cristiano Ronaldo, and that Pepe was terrible. Watch this extended highlight clip, which should reinforce the conclusions that (a) Barcelona completely dominated after about the 25′ mark, and (b) Pepe was a complete embarrassment–and not only for the already-infamous Messi hand stamp:
Pepe actually hurt Madrid with his play, and his theatrics yesterday matched those of Busquets last spring. He got that an yellow (~16′) for a gratuitous and cheap foul on Busquets deep in Barcelona’s half, and should have got a 2nd yellow for either his playacting at 64′ after Cesc outplayed him for the ball (listen to the Sky Sports commentators), and then of course the handstamp at 67′. So really Madrid should’ve been a man down for the last 25mins. Mourinho finally had to sub him off a little after that.
Even more significantly, he was completely rooted to the ground while Puyol streaked past him to score Barça’s first goal on that diving header at the beginning of the 2nd half.
It seems like he lost it mentally b/c he was getting outplayed all over the field–he’s just not that good on the ball, and not quick enough to contain Barcelona in midfield..
It will be interesting to see if Mourinho sticks with him after this.
Also: it looks like Carvalho was a fraction of a second pulling forward and kept Abidal onside for Barça’s 2nd goal. And then the Portuguese central defender had two really bad tackles in the final minutes of the match: one on Messi that got him a yellow, and a 2nd on Adriano in extra time that prob should’ve seen him ejected.
Less than a week after their hard fought tie in league play, Madrid and Barça met in the final of the King’s Cup. Mourinho sent his defensive set into the midfield again, then put in Özil from the start for an added touch of creativity in attack, and sprinkled the whole side with an extra dose of aggression dust.
The force of Madrid’s tackling and their quickness in closing down the Barça players immediately unstabilized the usually unflappable Blaugrana. On the strength of their defense and their quick counter attack, Madrid had far the better of the first half. Pepe seemed to be everywhere and Ronaldo did very well as the lone striker up top (even with Mascherano shadowing his every move). The game moved quickly up and down the pitch, but Barcelona weren’t finding any joy past the midfield circle and it wasn’t until nearly the 40th minute that they finally caused an overload close to goal (the chance fizzled without them manufacturing a shot).
Their one foray aside, Barcelona were lucky to get to the halftime whistle tied at zeroes, especially after Pepe’s towering header above Dani Alves smashed against the inside post and deflected at an agonizing angle across the goal mouth.
The second half was a different game entirely. Barcelona were rejuvenated by whatever spanking Pep Guardiola gave them in the dressing room, and they came out with the sort of belly fire you expect from the best team of their generation. Suddenly the game was stretched (in part because Madrid were pushing more into attack, but also because Xavi and Pedro were drawing out Pepe and Khedira more successfully) leaving Iniesta room to move through the middle.
It was in fact Iniesta who turned the game in Barça’s favor. In the first half, the playmaker forced passes into Messi and Villa only to find them sitting inside a trap. In the second half the tiny balding Spaniard held the ball and ran past the first defensive line of Madrid, then worked in closer proximity to his strikers so they could work the tiki taka. As soon as they found their rhythm the counter attack of Madrid started to look more like desperate clearing rather than pointed reply.
If not for Iker Casillas, Barça would have gone ahead in the second half, and considering the state of Madrid at the time they would probably not have found a way back. Spain’s number one tapped away a lovely chipped ball by Pedro and pushed aside an Iniesta strike destined for the corner.
It looked as if the game would head for extra time, until Madrid managed an odd man rush at the very end of the 90 minutes and di María found himself free to test Pinto from just outside the box. Valdés’s stand-in managed to palm the floating attempt above the bar and it was onto the next 30 minutes. More of the same for the most part. Hard tackling from Madrid but Barcelona with better control, though the chances had dried up.
Then just past the 100 minute mark Madrid found their way through the center of the pitch by way of another Pepe tackle. Marcelo swung the ball out to di María who got a toe in front of Alves to lift a far-side cross to the slicked head of Cristiano Ronaldo. The glistening head of the Portugese directed the ball past the unbalanced Pinto — Madrid 1 – 0 Barcelona.
Substitutions were made by both sides in the final fifteen minutes, but the score remained the same, and Real Madrid walked away with their first Copa del Rey in eighteen years. Then, Sergio Ramos dropped it under the party bus on the way back from the airport…
The first of four meetings between these sides produced a magnificent game, but it was always going to be about how Madrid responded to Barcelona. It’s a shame then that Madrid were brought down to ten men and we didn’t see the fullness of Mounrinho’s second-half tactical shift.
Jose deployed a new formation yesterday evening, placing a tight triangle made from two defense midfielders and a center back smack in the middle of Barcelona’s attack. Alonso, Khedira and Pepe–yes, Pepe–rotated defensive and attacking duties amongst themselves, working in tandem to break up the passing game from Iniesta and Xavi, and when they won the ball one of them would spring forward into the attack. Very often it was Pepe, and though it seemed odd at first to see the holding back pushing into the opposing side’s penalty box, it soon became evident that the Portugese was the most dangerous man on the pitch.
Barcelona only once pulled their collapse and expand tactic (where they bring three players in attack close together, then one-touch to each other to lure in defenders before turning or passing beyond their now condensed markers) – usually reserved for moments when the defending team are hesitant to leave their defensive zones. This unique moment in the match speaks precisely to the way Madrid disrupted Barça’s usual attack. The visitors were allowed no time on the ball, and almost always forced to move the ball laterally or backwards. Their chances were rare while Madrid attempted to counter through their speedy wingers.
There were contentious moments of course. Adriano’s yellow in the 9th minute was very soft, and considering he was tasked with containing Ronaldo he’d have to be careful not to pick up a second. Villa went down in what could have been a penalty, though in replay it did look like he dragged his feet and went over before the Casillas made any bit of contact. But Albiol’s red was certainly justified after dragging down Villa in the box – the end of an odd play actually, as it’s rare to see Barça send a long ball up and over the defense, and the bounce found the Madrid defender out of position.
For forty minutes Madrid had to play a man and goal down, and it didn’t seem like they had a chance to come back. But it did feel like Mourinho had planned to lock down the defense before unleashing the team toward the end of the game, and it may have been more a matter of sticking to the game plan than responding to the losing position that caused him to bring on his German playmaker Özil. His addition plus the removal of Alonso for Adebayor injected a bit of danger into the Madrid attack, and even with ten men they started bringing the game to the champions.
In the 81st minute Madrid were given a lifeline, and just maybe they deserved it for the effort they put into the game (and for having had a ball cleared off the line and one struck against the post). They certainly deserved it for the foul, though on first look it didn’t seem to have been much – on closer inspection Alves clearly took out the trailing leg of Marcello. Ronaldo converted as Messi had done from the spot at the other end of the pitch, and 10 mintues of subsequent frantic attacking from both sides produced a number of chances that could’ve spelled heartbreak for either side.
Now the question remains, how will this game effect the meeting between the sides on Wednesday? Were the choices of players and tactics preferred considered just for this 90 minutes, or were there deeper, longer lasting ploys in effect? We can’t wait to see!