Of Barcelona's play acting and the 'El-Farcico'
After Barcelona and Real Madrid played the fourth and the final installment of the El-Clasico in the semi-final second leg of the UEFA Champions League, few could argue that the charm of the encounter was well and truly lost.
Rash tackling, play-acting, off and on-field bust-ups marred what was supposed to be the most awaited fortnight in club football.
Over the course of the four clashes, Barcelona was definitely the better team on the field with Iniesta and co. leaving Real and the capacity audience bewildered, but the same Barcelona also gave glimpses that they too have a dark side to their game, they too will do anything to win!
The return leg of the La Liga at the Santiago Bernabeu failed to impress as the teams canceled each other all throughout the second half, and the match ended in a 1-1 draw and Real's title hopes under newly-appointed Portugese planman Jose Mourinho in tatters. Little did we know that this would turn to be the best football we would see from these teams in the course of 18 days.
The Copa Del Rey final between these sworn rivals after 21 years although was a dull and drab affair with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the only goal after regulation time, it was the coming to life of the Mourinho blueprint. The tacticians' plans in his head took shape on the field in the best way possible as the Los Blancos lifted the cup, which was later the victim of an open-top bus celebration.
With league and domestic matters put to rest, it was time to turn to the business end of things. The European meeting.
Jose Mourinho did not leave a stone unturned to crank up the pressure on the Catalans ahead of the first leg at Real's backyard, something he is very good at.
And both managers did play to their strengths.
While Jose Mourinho talked the talk, Guardiola calmly told the scribes busy quoting and un-quoting at a buzzing press conference, that his silence would be vindicated by his team's performance on the field.
How right and how wrong was he!
Yes, Barcelona did win the first leg convincingly netting in two invaluable away goals via a certain Argentine who crossed the 50-goal mark recently, but did they play to the field? Many might disagree.
What Barcelona did in the course of the match was a clear example of means to an end. The most impressive club in the world justified all football cynics by exhibiting that it is the RESULT which is important not the way you get it.
Excessive play-acting (refer to Dani Alves' I can't feel my ankle Pepe knocked me out so hard theatrics) or aggressive persuasion by the Barca players, a fact well justified by Carles Puyol and co. hounding the referee incessantly to flash the two least favourite coloured cards of a footballer. A very famous saying that 'Try, try and you shall succeed was executed to the T and it finally worked!
Dani Alves fell like a sack of potatoes and the referee had no other option but to show Pepe the dreaded red.
Jose Mourinho played a 5-4-1 formation, all the strikers and playmakers were rested to be brought on to launch a counter-offensive, the whole game was going according to the Real boss, his piece de resistance was about to be unleashed.
But had he envisioned this? That his team would have to defend for their lives in their own backyard, that the supporters in the aisles would have to watch their beloved 'Galacticos' run after the ball than run with it.
The match ended 0-2, with Barcelona clinching two away goals but losing respect in the process.
A man known and loved for his swagger, a manager never short of words or confidence had all but given in to the onerous task that lay before him in the second leg, and a minor case of him being banned in the technical area.
The second leg did promise to live up to its expectation, a lifeless, soulless tie whose result was not of consequence. The neutral although did regain hope when Marcelo netted in an away goal but the result was sealed when Andres Iniesta probably played the ball of the season, 23-yard skinner which left the Real backline for dead for Pedro to take full purchase of.
The only high point of the game coming in the 90th minute when Barca captain Carles Puyol came off to the loudest ovation only to hear the applause increase manifold on the introduction of Eric Abidal who had successfully fought off cancerous signs and a lung tumour and was back wearing the studs and strutting his stuff in front of the Catalunya faithful.
So Barcelona head to Wembley on May 28 for the final of the European elite, with the league title a definite possibility.
However, truth be told, Justice has definitely not been served.
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