Real Madrid 1 Barcelona 2: Lessons from a feisty ClÃ¡sico
What did we learn from Barcelona's 2-1 victory over Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey at the Bernabeu on Wedneday night?
Barcelona continue their Bernabéu dominance
Barcelona extended their unbeaten streak at the Santiago Bernabéu to seven games with Wednesday night’s 2-1 victory. The last time Real managed to beat their Catalan rivals in Madrid was a 4-1 win in May 2008 as Fabio Capello steered Los Blancos to their last La Liga crown. Unfortunately for José Mourinho, Real look no closer to ending the run as they ultimately struggled to disrupt Barcelona’s rhythm despite a bright start. Mourinho’s biggest challenge of his managerial career will be knocking Barcelona off their perch and any chance of doing that surely needs to start with a win over the European champions on home turf.
Honours even between Messi and Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo scored the decisive goal in last season’s Copa del Rey final after 103 minutes, sealing Real Madrid’s first trophy in four seasons. And Los Blancos‘ talisman led the defending champions in their bid to retain their title with a tenacious performance on Wednesday, fulfilling his defensive duties and producing a clinical finish after 11 minutes to give Real the lead. However, Real’s confidence evaporated in the second half and Barcelona’s diminutive Lionel Messi took over from Ronaldo as the 24-year-old began to cause the creaking home defence problems. And it was the three-time Ballon d’Or winner who created Eric Abidal’s decisive goal with a mesmerising pass.
Pepe the pantomime villain
The greatest Spanish soap opera on television was a rather subdued instalment until Pepe blew a fuse – again. Real’s Portuguese midfielder was at fault for Barcelona’s first goal as he allowed Carles Puyol to escape his attentions and power a stunning head low past Iker Casillas early in the second half. Pepe then clashed with Cesc FÃ bregas, or perhaps more accurately the former Arsenal captain muscled his opponent out of the way, brushing his arm across Pepe’s chest. The 28-year-old fell comically to the floor clutching his face, seemingly in agony and showing flagrant disregard for the values of sportsmanship. Moments later, and maybe irritated by his earlier error, Pepe opted to take out his frustrations on Messi. With Barcelona’s forward on the floor, Pepe cynically stood on the Argentina international’s left hand. Luckily for the Portugal international, it went unnoticed and unpunished by the referee.
Pep’s 41st birthday present
Barcelona may trail Real by five points in the La Liga title race but Guardiola’s side battled from behind to win the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie. The reigning European champions persevered with their patient passing game and it finally paid dividends in the second half as Mourinho’s side began to wilt. Guardiola will be encouraged by the Catalan giants’ fighting spirit and it is an attribute which could prove vital as they look to overhaul Real’s five-point lead in the league. The victory provided Guardiola with the perfect gift on his 41st birthday.
Valdés omission was a dodgy decision
Guardiola left first-choice goalkeeper VÃctor Valdés on the bench and the 41-year-old was left to rue the decision after Ronaldo’s 11th minute strike. The Real forward struck his shot with plenty of venom but it whizzed through José Pinto’s legs to hand the home side an early lead – Barcelona’s No2 should have made a routine save. And for the opening 45 minutes it looked to be a rare tactical mistake by the normally astute Guardiola. However, second-half goals from Puyol and Eric Abidal rendered the decision meaningless while sparing Pinto’s blushes. An intriguing point to debate ahead of the second leg will be whether Guardiola starts Valdés or sticks with Pinto for Barcelona’s cup games.