La Liga: Barça still in the driving seat after thrilling ‘Clásico’
Real Madrid impressed on their visit to the Camp Nou, but the 2-2 result ensures Messi’s Barcelona maintain an eight-point lead over their rivals.
By Halima Ali
“When Madrid play Barcelona, the world stops” said José Mourinho, who this week took part in his 14th Clásico in two years. The game had the potential to effectively kill off his side’s aspirations of retaining their league title given that a defeat would have put Barcelona 11 points clear, a surely unassailable lead.
A poor start to the campaign – Mourinho’s worst ever as a manager – meant this game was almost already a title decider. Win this and Hay Liga, lose and it would be all over at this early stage of the season.
As if that was not enough tension, with growing calls for Catalan independence, matchday seven at the Camp Nou was set to be a chance for 100,000 culés to express their desire to break away from Spain.
Clashes between these two sides have always been heated, irrespective of league standings, but Mourinho’s arrival has seen that aggression move up a notch in the past few seasons. Brought in to break the Barcelona hegemony, he has succeeded in elevating Madrid’s results but also in raising the heat – an eye-gouging by the man himself was one particularly memorable incident.
So Sunday night’s game had the potential to be explosive but in the end it was the football that did the talking.
The visitors could have taken the lead early on as Karim Benzema should have done better when he scuffed a shot wide while left unmarked, while Sergio Ramos had a free header but failed to hit the target.
It was left to Ronaldo, who came into the game on the back of two hat-tricks in a week, to put his team in front with a low shot at the near post to round off a flowing move.
Just two minutes later, the lead could have been doubled when Ángel di María and Sami Khedira linked up to play in Benzema, who could only hit the post from just outside the six-yard box while the Argentine spurned another chance on the rebound.
The home side levelled when a defensive error by Pepe left Lionel Messi to apply a simple finish. The current FIFA Ballon d’Or then struck a spectacular curling left-footed free kick to give his team the lead.
Not to be outdone, Ronaldo who was by then playing with an injured shoulder, tucked away the equaliser after a sumptuous pass from Mesut Özil – a goal which was reminiscent of the one scored in the same venue last April as Madrid secured a crucial league win at the Camp Nou.
There was to be no winner from either side this time round but the game was significant for other reasons. Ronaldo, who for a time seemed to suffer from a mental block whenever he faced Barcelona, has now scored in six successive Clásicos, something no other player has done.
While Messi conceded that the difference between the two sides is getting closer, the truth is, the gap has been well and truly closed. Despite the nervy start, there was a calmness to Mourinho’s side, an air of assurance and any inferiority complex his players may have had over the last few years as they tried to compete with Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona seems to have been put to rest.
Subsequently, this has left two sides competing at the highest level and putting on exciting displays of football with the two star attractions competing against only each other in their race for the Ballon d’Or.
The game was in essence, a display of their powers. Ronaldo and Messi who seemingly cannot be mentioned one without the other, are fighting neck and neck for this year’s personal award and Mourinho was adamant: “Talking about who the best player in the world is should be banned because they’re so good” while his opposite number Tito Vilanova admitted: “Ronaldo would probably have had greater recognition if it had not been for Messi”.
So while Madrid may have left happy with the result in a game they absolutely could not afford to lose and Barcelona are more than comfortable with the eight-point lead they retain at the top, this Clásico may be looked upon differently come the end of the season. With the margins between the sides so tight, Los Merengues may be left to rue their missed chances come June.
Atlético Madrid 2 – 1 Málaga CF
FC Barcelona 2 – 2 Real Madrid
Athletic Bilbao 1 – 0 Osasuna
RCD Mallorca 1 – 2 Granada CF
Levante UD 1 – 0 Valencia CF
Real Betis 2 – 0 Real Sociedad
Real Valladolid 1 – 1 RCD Espanyol
Real Zaragoza 0 – 1 Getafe CF
Rayo Vallecano 2 – 1 Deportivo La Coruña
Celta de Vigo 2 – 0 Sevilla FC
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Published: Oct 9 2012
Category: Spain News, Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=7109
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Tags: barcelona, cristiano ronaldo, Messi, Real Madrid, spain, spain news, spanish football