Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Madrid Wins Copa Ugly

Today Real Madrid defeated FC Barcelona in the Copa del Rey (King's Cup) tournament final, with an ugly second-half display of anti-football defensive tactics that regrettably paid off for Jose Mourinho's Galacticos, winning the tournament final with the marginal score of 1 - Nil.

As in the match last Saturday, Real Madrid played a very aggressive first half which saw reserve Barcelona goalkeeper Jose Pinto beat by Cristiano Ronaldo in the 12th minute; but fortunately Barcelona defenseman Mascherano hacked the ball away to save the goal.  Late in the half, Madrid fullback Alvaro Arbeloa stomped on David Villa and was lucky not to have been show the red card straightaway for his ugly tackle, which would have (and should have) completely changed the complexion of the match.  In the 35th minute, Pinto made a fine save of another ominous shot by Ronaldo, but was again out of position just before the half when a shot by Real's Brazilian  forward Pepe rang off the crossbar, allowing Barca to go into the half with a tied score.

The tide shifted after the break.  Barcelona dominated the second half in typical style, as Real Madrid totally abandoned any pretense at beautiful football in favor of jamming the box with seven and sometimes even eight players, making it very difficult for Barca to score.  Despite these ugly anti-football tactics, Pedro still managed to fire a shot just wide of goal, Lionel Messi sailed a shot over the crossbar, and in turn was almost perfectly set up by Dani Alves as well.  In the 68th minute, David Villa momentarily appeared to have broken his dry spell of goals with a fine running strike that sailed past Iker Casillas, but he was ruled offsides and the goal was dissallowed.  Thus the match ended at full time with the score 0 - 0, sending the final into a mandatory overtime.

Barca continued to dominate possession in overtime, but it was the infuriatingly talented Cristiano Ronaldo who broke the tied score.  In the 102d minute Angel di Maria sent a beautiful cross from the wing on a rare Madrid counter-attack, which Cristiano Ronaldo met in the air, slamming a thunderous header past Pinto to the back of the net which gave Real a 1 goal lead in overtime.  With a slender lead to protect and the clock to run out, Madrid again reverted to jamming the box with defensive players, and thus the match ended, giving Real Madrid its first trophy of consequence in Jose Mourinho's tenure as coach.  This match was also the first time Pep Guardiola has lost a finals match since taking over as Barcelona's Manager in 2008, bringing him to six finals victories against only one defeat in finals play over the last three years.  An impressive record indeed.

Thus Barca's hopes for another Treble of Championships (Liga-Copa-Champions League) come to an end.  However, with the Spanish League championship all but wrapped up, FC Barcelona still has a fine chance to win the Champion's League tournament, which would give the Catalan's two major trophies this season, a fine achievement.  Barca returns to La Liga competition this upcoming Saturday with a home match at Camp Nou against Osasuna, followed by a return to El Clasico against Real Madrid on April 27th at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of an away-and-home Champion's League final series.  Real Madrid will have to return to Camp Nou on May 3rd for the second leg of the series, and the final El Clasico match of this season.  I can't wait.