Sunday, December 6, 2009

1-0: Zlatan

It was definitely a moral victory for Real Madrid. They probably played their best football all season, and in the toughest stadium to do so...the Nou Camp. Let's not forget that Barça did win the game 1-0 with Zlatan's third touch of the game, however no one leaving the pitch was truly dissapointed.

The game did not transcend like a classic "Clasico". Both teams left out their key strikers in their starting line ups (French international Benzema and game winning Zlatan Ibrahimovic) respectively. It was a slightly cautious approach but both teams started off playing beautiful open football. Pure Spanish football at it's best. Barça's constant and restless triangle passing and Real's more direct, perhaps slightly individualistic and fast-paced possession made it a constant battle in throughout the pitch.

This isn't the norm in such games - there is always usually something that goes wrong. And then it happened. For some reason Barcelona's honest (let's put Thierry Henry aside) players were not exactly on their best behaviour. Keita, Dani Alves and even Golden Ball winner Lionel Messi kept trying to provoke inexistant free kicks, bookings and wrongful decisions. And finally, local talent Sergio Busquets (son of former FC Barcelona's keeper - Carlos Busquets), who coincidentally must have been spending a lot of time with Henry; unprofessionally handled the ball preventing Real's counter-attack, an was rightfully booked. He had been previously been booked for a bad tackle and so was sent off leaving the reigning champions with only ten men.

By then, Real had missed three golden opportunities and Ibrahimovic had two touches on the ball, and third one was a magnificent volley that landed straight in Casillas' net. Dani Alves made the assist, and even though he had a 60 minutes of terrible crosses from his right hand side, this one was perfect. Real did not react in the most aggressive way even though Pellegrini tried to. He replaced right back Arbeloa with captain Rául, and played with three strikers: the captain, Higuaín and substitute Benzema (who came on for an unfortunate CR9).

Real were perseverant, but were not lucky enough to score an equaliser and the reigning champions, and the home side, went home with the 3 vital points. However, as Spanish sports paper "Marca" said, it was a moral victory for Real Madrid - the return leg will definitely be one to watch and a completely different story...

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