Barcelona, Madrid, and Radiohead’s final sigh
So: Barcelona 1, Real Madrid 1. In the immortal words of the C&C Music Factory, this match was one of the things that make you go “Hmmmm”. I can’t help that think that, when football’s historians return to ponder this fixture, their verdict will be a slight frown and a brief stroke of the chin.
It wasn’t a bad game of football. You know, it was actually quite good: the moves that led to goals by Pedro and Marcelo would be welcome on any highlight reel. It’s just that, well, it wasn’t the ending we expected. The intrigues had been simmering throughout the four-game series. By the time of the final instalment, we had seen sendings-off, two fearlessly-dispatched penalties (Messi, Ronaldo), and Xavi doing plenty of that tricky tiki-taka thing with whoever was fit to play alongside him. It wasn’t spectacular, but, given the fractious relationship between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, there was something appropriately stop-start about the football that the ties produced.So there we sat last night, expecting, I don’t know, better things than we got. Mourinho showed great attacking intent with his line-up, selecting Kaka to support the highly-mobile front three of Higuain, di Maria and Ronaldo. I found this interesting, and encouraging. One of Barcelona’s few shortcomings is that, well, they’re short; and so, prior to the game, I had speculated that Mourinho might employ a more physical approach, causing Barcelona discomfort with high balls flighted into Adebayor. Perhaps surprisingly, he decided that the more aesthetic approach would also be the more effective.
Sadly, though, Mourinho’s spirit of enterprise went unrewarded. This was not entirely his own fault; early in the second half, Higuain had a goal disallowed for a foul by Ronaldo, when it seemed that rather than being the perpetrator Ronaldo had been the victim of not one but two fouls in the build-up to his team-mate’s finish. Yet if we must get into the business of pointing fingers, Mourinho was mistaken to start Kaka, and possibly to field him at all. Just two years ago, the Brazil playmaker cost £59m, looking far better value for money than Ronaldo, whom Real had acquired the same summer for £21m more. But last night, like so many others before him, he was mired by Barcelona’s midfield in a game of piggy-in-the-middle, an aptly frustrating footnote to two seasons of injury and inconsistency.
Kaka shouldn’t take too much blame, though. In retrospect, this tie was over from the moment Messi, in the one sequence of play that will outlive all others, speed-skated through several challenges for his second goal at the Bernabeu. Mourinho may well ask himself why he wasn’t more adventurous in that first leg; why he didn’t use the momentum of Real’s Copa del Rey win, and press Barcelona furiously in front of a raucous home crowd.
In the end, though, no-one’s really all that surprised. Barcelona, perhaps the most thrilling side the world has seen, go on to their second UEFA Champions League final in three years. Meanwhile, Madrid go home with Mourinho, who has a familiar (and, in this case, legitimate) litany of grievances against the match officials. As Radiohead might sigh, “Everything in its right place”.Tagged in: Barcelona, cristiano ronaldo, el gran clasico, football, José Mourinho, Kaka, Lionel Messi, Marcelo, Pedro, Pep Guardiola, real madrid, UEFA Champions League
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