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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid Are The Victors In El Clasico And Are On Their Way To Being Crowned La Liga Champions As They Defeat Barcelona At The Camp Nou

Real Madrid take a victory in the 164th El Clasico match, held in the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Northern Spain. After a nightmarish midweek for both sides, failing to bring home victories in their Champions League matches, the title decider was bound to be a tense match when the two Spanish giants clashed in the legendary stadium.

The visitors were quick on the attack, determined to get the goals they desperately needed if they wished to bring the three points back to Madrid and secure their spot on top. Barcelona are the nearest competition to the side from the Spanish capitol, third place Villa Real hold 52 points to the 81 and now 88 points of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Although Puyol and the rest of the Barcelona defense were reasonably busy in the opening minutes, Victor Valdes wasn’t very busy. He made a fantastic fingertip save in he opening five minutes to deny Ronaldo the opening goal when he met a corner kick with a powerful header but was otherwise not called off of his line. Iker Casillas in the other goal was much more busy, making save after save as Barcelona managed to wriggle through his backline.
From the sixth minute on, majority of the possession was in strong favor of the home side. Barcelona were comfortable passing the ball around in their half, not appearing to be in a hurry to get the first goal. Madrid, on the other hand, pressed the Barca backline immediately when a turnover was created in the midfield. With eight minutes gone, Dani Alves squeezed through the Real defense enough to be flagged offsides as he chased a through ball from the midfield. With neither side getting in the strong attacks that they are used to in the rest of their league play, they began to get frustrated and choppy, both sides conceding multiple tactical fouls in the other’s half to keep the ball from crossing the halfway line.
Barcelona were favored to rally to at least hold their hated rivals to a draw, but Real Madrid were the first ones to get on the scoreline. In the 14th minute, Sergio saw yellow for his late challenge on Ronaldo. It was certainly a foul, but the yellow card was harsh. Alonso took the free kick and the lofty ball was headed out of the danger area by the Barcelona defense. The corner kick was not well dealt with by the scattered home side and rather than staying in the hands of Valdes, it fell to the feet of Sami Khadira. The attacking midfielder made no mistake and put the ball in the back of the net through the legs of Puyol. Real Madrid had the lead at the Camp Nou and, as it stood, were on their way to clinching the title.
The home side were desperate for a response and immediately began applying pressure on the Real Madrid goal. Casillas was called upon on many occasions. Tello had some good shots for Barcelona, but the Catalonians were not willing to sacrifice possession for a shot on goal and resorted to dropping the ball back and rebuilding from Valdes rather than pressing forward. By the half-hour mark, the possession was nearly split, both sides holding the ball in their own halves rather than pressing forward. Barcelona began pressing Real Madrid again with about ten minutes to go before the halftime break but their efforts were well-absorbed by the Real Madrid defense. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi put on lavish displays of speed and dribbling skills to try and grab a goal for their teams but their efforts were stopped by the back four of the opposing side.
At the half, Jose Mourinho’s men had the 1-0 lead thanks to the scrappy goal from Khedira but they were on their way to a second. Pep Guardiola’s men had nothing to be ashamed of, for their efforts were forcing some acrobatic goalkeeping from Valdes and their possession in the Real Madrid half was impressive. More goals were sure to come in the second half.
In the opening minute of the second half, Real Madrid were quickly on the attack. They were dispossessed at the top of the Barcelona box and caught on the counter attack. Barcelona forced a foul from Xabi Alonso and the Spanish midfielder saw yellow. By the 50th minute, much like the first half, the attacking evened out as well as the possession, neither side willing to push too hard for a goal if it meant losing a comfortable amount of possession in their favor.
As the clock ticked on, Barcelona knew they needed a goal. Tello was in rare form, sending the majority of his shots far and wide and shooting what could be the worst miss of the entire season when he found himself unmarked about a yard away from the goal. Valdes was slow coming off his line, but Tello went to one touch the cross rather than settling it, sending the ball flying more vertical that horizontal and well over the crossbar. Both sides racked up a significant number of offside calls, trying to catch the other on the counter attack but in the end, they resorted to their through ball method, often timing their runs poorly. The game lacked the exciting creativity often associated with the two teams and they began to grow frustrated. In the 67th minute, Xavi fired a long range shot but it went wide. He then made way for the young Chilean striker, Alexis Sanchez as Guardiola attempted to bulk up his attack to get a goal. It proved to be his best move of the match. In the 70th minute, the little Chilean put Barcelona level thanks to some brilliant playing from Iniesta and a little bit of luck with the finish. Tello settled a long, sweeping cross from Andres Inesta in the midfield, putting it into the box where Sanchez’s initial effort was saved by Casillas. Luckily, a trailing leg from the substitute striker meant that Casillas’ follow-up save bounced off of his ankle and into the back of the net.
Barcelona were level, but Cristiano Ronaldo was not about to let the title go that easily. Just two minutes later, he made a fantastic run onto a long ball from Coentrao, collecting it in his stride, leaving the Barcelona defenders in the dust and putting a hard but well-placed shot past Valdes.
The remainder of the match can be described as so: desperate and possessive play from Barcelona and scrappy, defensive play from Real Madrid. Barcelona pushed hard for an equalizer as they were fueled by the screams from the home fans, but the visitors were too disciplined in the back and they were unable to get another goal. Real Madrid’s desperate defense got a few of their men booked, but in the end no harm was done and when the final whistle sounded, Real Madrid celebrated being six points clear at the top of the table on the pitch of their most hated rival. 

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