Remarkable. Spectacular. Audacious. Extravagant. One might just run out of adjectives to describe the recently concluded El Clasico. A star-studded Real Madrid travelled to Barcelona to take on yet another star-studded home team – FC Barcelona. After some hostile reception at the Barcelona airport – El Prat, the visitors were again subjected to some inconsiderate reception at the hallowed Camp Nou. FC Barcelona not only won the match but did it in élan. Scoring five goals past a team of Real Madrid’s caliber is no mean feat and Pep Guardiola’s men achieved that in some style!
Even before the kick-off, Los Blancos were pushed on the back foot – as Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain failed a late fitness test. Temperamental Frenchman, Karim Benzema got a rare start in a match that could have redefined his sluggish stint at the White House. Pep Guardiola fielded a clichéd Barcelona side and so did Jose Mourinho, with the exception of Higuain. The match started with all the excitement that can only be associated with a game like El Gran Clasico.
The home side occupied the driver’s position right from the word go. The match was barely 5 minutes old when Lionel Messi proved why he is considered to be in a class of his own. The diminutive Argentine curled a left-footed shot over a stranded Iker Casillas, from a very tight angle, in a congested Real Madrid penalty box – only to see his effort ricochet off the post. Had it been a goal, it’d surely have been one of the best El Clasico goals, ever. However, the deadlock was eventually broken by Xavi. Although known to be the provider for majority of the Barcelona goals, the midfield maestro latched onto a fabulous pass from Iniesta only to lob it unperturbedly over an imminent Iker Casillas. Despite it being a lapse in defense, Xavi finished it immaculately to get the Catalans a deserved lead.
Real Madrid came very close to equalizing when Angle Di Maria was laid off by Mesut Ozil, just outside the box. The Argentine wingers attempt was tipped over the bar by an ever-reliant Victor Valdes. Real Madrid tried to build on the tempo that led to Di Maria’s shot. Ronaldo’s intelligent through ball was somehow kept out of the Barcelona goal by a combined effort from a flummoxed Abidal and a shocked Valdes. Benzema somehow couldn’t reach the ball on time to trouble the Barcelona fort further. Barcelona then went on to control the pulse of the game. David Villa was deployed on the left side of the pitch. The former Zaragoza man showed immaculate first touch to control a long ball from the right flank and dragged fullback Sergio Ramos with him. His shot somehow rebounded off Iker Casillas and fell on the path of Pedro. The young protégée made no mistake in notching up his team’s second goal of the night.
Barcelona started running riot in the Madrid defense as Pedro came close yet again around the half hour mark. Real Madrid, however, had yet another chance from a free-kick from around 30 yards out – the perfect range for Ronaldo to fire his missiles. The Portuguese star took the set-piece quite brilliantly only to see his efforts swerve a bit too much and agonizingly miss the target. A few minutes later, the visitors had a penalty call turned down as Ronaldo and Valdes went for a ball inside the Barcelona penalty box. The Barca custodian seemed to have made contact but the referee indicated to play on. The first half ended with the game quite poised in favor of the home side.
Mesut Ozil and Karim Benzema didn’t look at all comfortable against 98011 Catalans – 11 on the pitch and 98000 off it. The Camp Nou faithful made sure that the royal visitors from the capital got an antagonistic reception. Newbie Ozil was substituted at halftime and veteran Lassana Diarra was brought in to stop the Barcelona juggernaut. Things got worse from there on.
As the second half commenced, Messi’s mazy run caught the Madrid defense off-guard and his deflected shot landed in the path of Villa. St. Iker salvaged the situation by producing one of the finest saves of the match. Minutes later, Messi’s through ball saw Xavi in a scoring position but the latter couldn’t put the ball in the net from a tight angle. Recurrent attacks at the Madrid fortress gave the Camp Nou faithful some hope for a 3rd goal and Messi obliged by delivering a fabulous through ball between Pepe and Carvalho – which was controlled by Villa with panache before slamming it past a hapless Iker, to get the 3rd goal of the night.
Moments later, it was a moment of “Déjà vu”, when the 3rd goal repeated itself. Messi’s through ball was yet again seized by an incisive Villa, who wasted no time in justifying his hefty price tag. Barcelona thus had their 4th goal of the night in around the hour mark, to put the game way beyond Real Madrid.
– What happened next can only be termed as showboat. The home side dictated the rest of the game with some immaculate passing and some incredible footwork. Pep Guardiola made his first change of the night by substituting David Villa with Bojan, thus denying the former Valencia man a hat-trick. Bojan got a chance to increase the margin, but unfortunately, couldn’t hold onto his balance. A beleaguered Real Madrid tried every trick to halt a rampaging Messi. Carvalho was yellow-carded for his intentional hand ball on a clear goal-scoring chance, as Real Madrid thanked their lucky stars that saved the Portuguese defender from getting expelled. Subsequently, Xavi was substituted with Kieta and Pedro with Jeffren in the 86th minute. Jeffren, the La Masia starlet, had a night to remember as he put the last nail on Los Blaco’s coffin by scoring the fifth goal of the night from a Bojan Krkic assist.
To add insult to injury, the visitors had 8 players yellow carded and Sergio Ramos expelled for his intentional challenge, first on Messi and then Carles Puyol. Barcelona too had Valdes, Villa, Messi and Xavi warned for improper conduct. Pep Guardiola, thus managed his second five-star win against Madrid, being the manager this time. The first was as a player in 1994, when Madrid bowed in front of the genius of Brazilian Romario. Jose Mourinho too experienced the worst defeat in his managerial career. With this, the Barcelona manager is yet to lose against their arch-rival after coming to the helm of affairs at Camp Nou. Jose Mourinho would have to wait for some more time before he manages his first win at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona now leads the Spanish League table, 2 points ahead of second placed Real Madrid. The La Liga pace-setters are followed by Villarreal and Espanyol in 3rd and 4th position respectively. Valencia have dropped to 5th after a promising start to their 2010-11 La Liga season.