By Kevin Koczwara
El Clasico was billed as the Messi and Ronaldo show, but we (the media) should have known games aren’t decided by two players on opposite sides. Nope. Games are decided by teams and the individuals on those teams. Barcelona’s 11 men were superior, far better, than Real Madrid’s. The 5-0 win for the Catalans was as easy as that.
Madrid couldn’t handle Xavi and Andres Iniesta in the middle of the Barcelona midfield, and most teams can’t. The two World Cup winners control tempo, don’t give up the ball and eliminate opposing teams attacking players by not allowing them to ever touch the ball. Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil were lucky to touch the ball in the first half. The only chances for Madrid came when Angel di Maria smashed a shot directly at Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes and at the end of the half when Ronaldo took one of his two free kicks and missed just wide of Valdes’ post. Other than that, it was a forgettable night for Jose Mourinho’s men.
Mourinho and company came into the Camp Nou with a one point lead over Barcelona in the table, and now, they leave with a two-point deficit and a big time humbling.
Madrid had allowed six goals in La Liga this year, up until tonight’s thrashing. Los Blancos looked unstoppable, scoring 33 goals and humiliating just about everyone in its path. Ronaldo looked to be a man possessed, again. Mourinho had worked his magic on the poor backline of Madrid, the unit had looked like a new set of players who could all defend and get forward when needed. But the men from Madrid hadn’t played a team on the same level as Barcelona, and had not had to cope with a midfield of Xavi and Iniesta, plus the ability of Barcelona’s attacking players to drop deep and create space for the creators. Messi and Villa are world class, no two ways about it, and when they put on the Barcelona jersey they play for the team, not for themselves, and it makes them almost unstoppable to beat.
Barcelona enjoyed 67% of possession against Madrid. Madrid’s 33% of possession is a staggering amount, even for a counter-attacking side. With the quality of players Madrid can put out on the field, it comes as a surprise that the team couldn’t hold on to the ball and create more chances.
At half, Mourinho tried to cope with Barcelon’a control of the midfield by adding in a third holding midfielder, Lassana Diarra, and remove an almost non-existent Mesut Ozil from the attack. Too bad the tactic didn’t work as Madrid struggled to find space and move the ball out of its own end with a lack of attacking players holding a tight line. Diarra mixed in like oil and water with Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira, none of the players could get out of each others way – consistently turning the ball over in the midfield. A 2-0 deficit quickly became an embarrassing, 5-0 loss.
The bad news for Barcelona, this win doesn’t seal the La Liga title, again. There are plenty of games to be played and Madrid won’t slack like this ever again. This loss was the worst ever for Mourinho in his managing career – previously 3-0 was his pinnacle of awful – and he won’t live it again while he’s in charge of los Blancos. His goal is to bring glory back to Madrid, and he may well do it, but it looks like it could take a few years, like at Inter Milan, for him to put his mark on the team, build a strong bench, and catch Pep Guardiola’s side.
- The sending off of Sergio Ramos was well deserved. The highly tauted and skilled Spanish right back may have won a World Cup this summer and been the breakout star of the Euro 2008 winning side, but tonight he showed his ugly side. He has a tendency to make poor challenges on the ball and get sent off. His tackle on Messi in the closing minutes of the game was red card worthy, but his actions after were disgraceful. The type of attitude he displayed will put Mourinho in a hot seat as the Spanish international may serve some extra time for all the extra pushing, shoving and face touching he did. Not something the manager needs to deal with.
- Ronaldo’s shove of Guardiola was uncalled for. So often players and managers toss the ball away from their opponents on throw ins. It happens. Get over it and play. Ronaldo didn’t, and the Barcelona players should have reacted the way they did. Something Ronaldo may never understand is the meaning of team and community, something the Catalans take to heart. You don’t just push their coach, especially if he is one of their own.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at email@example.com.