As I was watching the Real Madrid celebrations after their extra time victory over Barcelona in the Spanish Cup Final, with the crowd singing ‘Viva Espana’, Jose Mourinho getting hoisted in the air by his players, applauding the architect of their victory and Sergio Ramos doing his ‘Matador‘ thing a thought sprang to my mind – hardly anyone on that pitch wearing the Real camiseta has ever beaten Barcelona.
Iker Casillas has done, Sergio Ramos had done it. Pepe. The others? Ronaldo beat them while playing with United but never really impressed. Carvalho did it with Chelsea. For the rest of them? It was a first. Mourinho has done it more than once but every time it seems that it means more to him. It probably did last night – winning with Real Madrid does make you feel ‘specialer’ I guess. When it adds you your first trophy as Real Madrid manager, Real’s first Copa Del Rey since 1993, Real’s first win over Barcelona since 2008, it’s special.
Another man who felt huge vindication was Cristiano Ronaldo, who always struggled when facing the Catalans. He missed and missed and missed, mostly in the first half. He didn’t let frustration take over. Barcelona took over in the second half and had their go – Messi, Pedro and Villa tested Casillas and he gave them his best. Pedro even managed to put one past him, but he was slightly offside. Ronaldo was able to create two more chances for himself, but Pinto or luck saved Barcelona again. Then came Di Maria’s cross, and everything turned white.
Di Maria and Marcelo’s constant work on the left wing found Dani Alves out of place quite a few times, and eventually, that was the crucial moment that gave Real their win. Barca wasn’t able to come back from that. Ronaldo’s header must have meant so much to him. Winning the title, but probably more importantly, getting a huge moral boost towards the Champions League clash between the two teams.
Mourinho had some people to answer after the match – Winning titles is wining titles, it’s always good. Only a few days ago someone called me a coach who wins titles and not football. Thank you. I like being a coach who wins titles. (Answering to Johan Cruyff’s criticism about Mourinho being an egotistic title grabber. Don’t know what’s wrong with caring so much about winning titles).
I am thrilled to win the Copa del Rey – it is something special. It’s a fantastic triumph against a great team like Barcelona – and we deserved it. We can take them on over two games; we have just done that. There is no reason we can’t beat them in the Champions League because we have just drawn once against them and then beaten them. I came here to do a job and change the mentality of the club. We have started to do that and it’s satisfying – but it’s just the start.
This was the first time Guardiola lost a final since becoming head coach at Barca. He was short and rather boring with his comments after the game, which sounded like – It’s always better to win than lose, but you can’t always win. Right.
Mourinho’s Pepe installment worked. Making life extra hard for Messi but also surprising Barcelona with his travels on the attack, nailing one header to the post once in the first half. Having Mesut Ozil in the lineup made Real much more dangerous than the way they looked on Saturday. The kid is brilliant. Too bad he seemed to run out of steam in the second half. Ozil has a problem dominating for an entire match, something he has to work on.
From Real’s first night of glory in a long time comes the league as a break between the Clasicos. They have another Mestalla game, facing Valencia two hours before Barcelona play host to Osasuna. I wonder how many players will get some rest on both sides. Right now, Barcelona look like the more exhausted side.