La Liga: Ronaldo banishes Real Madrid’s league jinx
José Mourinho’s side secure the liga title and overcome their Barcelona complex with a commanding performance at the Camp Nou.
By Halima Ali
Cristiano Ronaldo wheeled away from the goalmouth gesturing and shouting, “Relax, I’m here”, as the Camp Nou fell silent and all Madridistas breathed a collective sigh of relief. Of course he was, of course the man who has scored 42 liga goals this season was going to take care of it all, but so often, he and his side have not.
This was José Mourinho’s 11th attempt at beating FC Barcelona since his arrival in the Spanish capital two years ago, during which time he had only succeeded once – in the Copa del Rey final last year. But with the Portuguese forward’s 73rd minute winner, Real Madrid were finally able to overcome their Barça jinx.
Sami Khedira had put the visitors ahead after only 17 minutes when Barcelona made a hash of trying to clear a corner, but the home side drew level when substitute Alexis Sánchez slotted home a scrappy, close-range effort in the 70th minute.
So it was to left to Ronaldo to score the definitive goal. It was a strike that would take him one ahead of Lionel Messi in the race for the Pichichi. It was also goal number 109 of the season for his side – the goal that broke the league’s all-time record taking Madrid to 108, was scored by Khedira earlier in the game – and most importantly of all, it was the goal that in all likelihood will win Madrid their first liga title in four years.
The match heralded a breakthrough for Mourinho’s men – and even Manuel Pellegrini’s men and Juande Ramos’s, as Madrid have failed to beat their eternal enemy in the league since 2008.
Every meeting between these two sides seems to hold increasing importance. This particular Clásico was dubbed ‘La Liga in 90 Minutes’ by sports daily AS, and now with a seven-point lead at the top of the table with just four games left, barring absolute disaster, the league is won.
The breakthrough also came in the manner in which Madrid played. Ronaldo may have appealed for calm but Los Merengues had been playing comfortably throughout. Gone was the desperation that has been evident in recent games against Pep Guardiola’s side.
The desire and urgency to beat Barcelona had been all too apparent in the numerous meetings between the two sides over the past year, meaning Madrid would often come racing out of the blocks frantic to score and after doing so, the resulting euphoria would quickly evaporate as they conceded two or three goals.
But this was a controlled and assured performance. The last meeting between the two, in the Copa del Rey semi-final in Barcelona which had ended 2-2, had felt like a win for the whites as they outplayed Barça. It was a match which seemed to reassure Madrid that they could have the upper hand.
This time around, going into the game on the back of defeat to Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final and with Barça needing a win to stay in the title race, the Blaugrana were obvious favourites but Madrid, who have had one hand on the title since the turn of the year, were not to be perturbed, with even Mourinho slumped contentedly in his seat throughout the match at what some press outlets later dubbed “Camp Mou”.
While Madridistas flocked to Cibeles to celebrate, Guardiola was the first to concede defeat: “Congratulations to Madrid, for the win and the league title.”
It was a Clasico that turned a page for Madrid, but it would be a mistake to assume this signals a fin de ciclo for Barcelona. It merely makes the next meeting between the two, perhaps in the Champions League final – if both Spanish sides can produce a comeback in their respective semi-finals – and the fight for La Liga next season all the more competitive, all the more interesting and all the more record-breaking.
FC Barcelona 1 – 2 Real Madrid
Valencia CF 4 – 0 Real Betis
Atlético Madrid 3 – 1 RCD Espanyol
Racing Santander 0 – 1 Athletic Bilbao
Real Sociedad 1 – 1 Villarreal CF
Granada CF 1 – 0 Getafe CF
Sevilla FC 1 – 1 Levante UD
RCD Mallorca 1 – 0 Real Zaragoza
Sporting Gijón 2 – 1 Rayo Vallecano
Osasuna 1 – 1 Málaga CF
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Published: Apr 24 2012
Category: Spain News, Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=5992
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