Real Madrid 1-2 Barcelona: Post-match reflections
If there’s one thing money can’t buy…
* If there’s one thing in football that money can’t buy, it’s not history, trophies, team spirit, or any of that jazz – it’s a proper back four. If you cast your mind back to the great ones, it’s astonishing how few truly great defensive units there are – mythical beings that are the difference between a great team and a legendary one. Yet at the moment, Madrid still aspire to greatness. Carvalho was supposed to add the calm head that was desperately lacking, but he has failed to export his wisdom to his colleagues. It remains the most obvious barrier to Mourinho’s inevitable progression to King of Spain.
* It may be forgotten in the wake of the Barcelona win, but Ronaldo seemed to be giving one of the performances of his career in the first half. Although Madrid were on top in goals, they enjoyed far less possession and opportunities, and wouldn’t have had a sniff were it not for Ronaldo’s breathtaking speed and control on the breakaway and, astonishingly, relentless harrying and pressing. The most surprising thing was not that he deemed it worthwhile to do in the first place, but how effective he was at doing it – not just blocking clearances and hoofing balls into the stands, but actually dispossessing Barcelona defenders and properly winning the ball in dangerous areas. He really can do anything.
* Coentrao was another unsung hero of the hour, who gave a tireless performance that, unlike the rest of his teammates, didn’t drop as the game wore on. Most gloriously of all though, was him offering an arm to help Messi up before slamming his face into the turf. He’s a Mourinho buy, and that is Mourinho mentality all over – with men like that around, you have the fortitude to win titles.
* Whether Barcelona tweaked, simply improved, or Real faltered in the second half will be a matter of inconclusive dispute, but to accurately demonstrate just how effectively Barca had been stymied in the first half, one only needs to look at their supposed ‘key players’ – though Iniesta was lively (and very wasteful) and Sanchez was productive, Xavi and Messi gave what was surely their most anaemic 45 minutes since they left the farmhouse.
* These Barcelona victories are getting tiresome, and inevitable. So far, Mourinho has turned slaughter into narrow, bitter defeats – whether that is an improvement or not is anyone’s guess, but he has to focus all his efforts on the league now. He may already have too much of a lead for Barcelona to claw back, and at the moment it still seems that Real’s most likely method of defeating Barcelona is to do it without actually playing them.
Photo courtesy of WellOffside.com