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La Liga: Real Madrid still in thrall to Barça’s brilliance

José Mourinho’s men went into the Clásico in superb form. They came out of it humbled once again by the Catalans.

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Karim Benzema (left) scored in the first minute but Barcelona were too strong in the second half. Photo: Real Madrid.

Starting slowly but building to a crescendo, countless statistics have been bounded about for the past week. This was the eighth time since his arrival, that José Mourinho’s Real Madrid side would face reigning Spanish champions FC Barcelona. The hosts had a 100-percent record at the Santiago Bernabéu this season and were on the verge of a record-breaking run of victories.

This clash would supposedly signal a shift in power to the Spanish capital. A Clásico that would be el fin de ciclo for Barcelona. But at the final whistle, only one statistic stood out. Madrid have not beaten Barcelona in la liga since 2008.

The game could not have started better for Madrid who were ahead in just 23 seconds – the fastest goal in a Clásico – with a strike by Karim Benzema, who took advantage of a shocking clearance by Victor Valdés.

Mourinho had said earlier in the week that his side were better than last season and having drawn first blood it seemed that they were on the verge of opening up a six-point lead at the top of the table with a game in hand, which surely would have proved too big a gap for even Barcelona.

But the euphoria was not to last. Alexis Sánchez brought Barcelona level and in the second half, a deflected shot by Xavi Hernández took the visitors ahead before Cesc Fàbregas headed past Iker Casillas to send his side to the top of table with just over 20 minutes remaining.

After the game, Casillas said beating their eternal rivals should not become an obsession for Madrid but it seems a little late for such rhetoric. Against any other rival, Madrid put up a fight, but their delicate belief and confidence was all too easily shattered by Xavi’s goal while Cristiano Ronaldo continued his poor form against the Catalans – only three goals in nine games – by missing two golden opportunities.

The trip to Sevilla next week has now become a must-win game for Mourinho’s men if they are to go into the winter break as leaders. Meanwhile, The Special One may need to start trying to crack the Barcelona code that has so far eluded him in la liga, as losing a league title at the Camp Nou could be a step too far for even his staunchest supporters.

Valencia’s woeful week

Elsewhere on Saturday, Valencia capped a miserable week that saw them dumped out of the Champions League by conceding two goals in stoppage time and losing 2-1 at struggling Real Betis. Heading for victory after José Antonio Dorado scored an own goal in the second half, Los Che were undone by a 91st minute equaliser and a second strike in the fourth minute of injury time, both by striker Rubén Castro.

Meanwhile, Sevilla suffered their first defeat away from home, losing 1-0 to this season’s surprise package Levante, who strengthened their hold on a Champions League qualification spot with Nano’s goal 10 minutes into the second half.

Sunday saw further pressure piled onto Javier Aguirre. Going into the game on a run of seven games without a win, Zaragoza were downed by a solitary Victor goal, giving Real Mallorca a 1-0 win at La Romareda.

Gregorio Manzano is another coach feeling the heat after his erratic Atlético Madrid were humbled in the Copa del Rey in midweek, losing 2-1 at third-tier Albacete and having won just once in 11 away games in all competitions. His misery was further compounded when in the late kick-off, Joan Verdú scored twice in the opening seven minutes as Espanyol dominated with a 4-2 victory at the Estadi Cornella-El Prat.

The result saw Espanyol end a five-game winless run in the league and move up to eighth place in the table, while Atlético fell to 10th.

Results: 

Sunday December 11

RCD Espanyol 4 – 2 Atlético Madrid

Athletic Bilbao 1 – 1 Racing Santander

Real Zaragoza 0 – 1 RCD Mallorca

Málaga CF 1 – 1 Osasuna

Villarreal CF 1 – 1 Real Sociedad

Getafe CF 1 – 0 Granada CF

Rayo Vallecano 1 – 3 Sporting Gijón

 

Saturday December 10

Real Madrid 1 – 3 FC Barcelona

Real Betis 2 – 1 Valencia CF

Levante UD 1 – 0 Sevilla FC





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Published: Dec 13 2011
Category: Uncategorized
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=4915
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