By Ollie Irish
So much for my prediction of a 1-0 Madrid win. Barca annihilated and humiliated Real at the Camp Nou, putting on the greatest display of team football I have ever seen. Seriously. At least, I think that’s what I think. I had taken a few ales at the time. But I don’t think it’s too wide of the mark – this is an astoundingly good football team.
Xavi and co. played football to a level that the best English clubs can only dream of. Barca’s passing was so crisp, their movement off the ball so fluid and purposeful, their hunger to get the better of Mourinho and Ronaldo so blatant… I could go on. More than anything, I was mesmerised by the speed of Barcelona’s attacking play, even when they passed backwards with a view to finding a new opening – which by the way, is something many English sides are terrible at doing.
Nowhere was the difference in the two sides more apparent than in the headline Messi vs Ronaldo showdown. Messi shone but he also took his medicine like a man, getting up with hardly a complaint after being knocked down on several occasions; Ronaldo meanwhile gave a display notable only for its outrageous petulance, most shamefully when he shoved Pep Guardiola in the chest:
No need for that, obviously. Guardiola reacted with dignity, as ever.
Of course, the kicker here is that Mourinho faaacked up royally and made life way too easy for Barcelona. In starting with Mesut Ozil over Lassana Diarra, Mourinho conceded the midfield even before the first whistle – and come on, that was always going to happen. You don’t concede the midfield when your opponents’ team sheet contains words such as ‘Xavi’ and ‘Iniesta’. You just don’t do that.
It’s most unlike Jose to drop the ball so badly (until last night, he had never managed a team that lost by more than three goals), even if his Real team is very much a work in progress. Usually Mourinho’s head rules his heart, ruthlessly, which is why his teams win so many crunch matches. Here it was the other way around, as if he too was blinded by the pre-game hype; Ozil was little more than a spectator in the first half and it was a no-brainer when the young German was replaced by Diarra at half-time.
Mourinho is nothing if not smart though, and he will figure out a way to deal with Barca when they visit the Bernabeu later in the season. And for all the weight given to this match, it is only one game in a long season. Real may not lose again until Barca pay the return visit; Mourinho’s teams tend to be very efficient flat-track bullies, whereas Barcelona, for all their brilliance, are prone to have the odd stinker now and then. This Liga season is not over yet.
PS. I highly recommend Sid Lowe’s review of this match for the Guardian. Very good indeed.