A new design in his hair to flaunt in front of the cameras, but also some rare bravery and playing through pain, scoring through it. Cristiano Ronaldo was the big star, along with his big rival, of yet another clasico, being the one good thing about Real Madrid in the second half as Jose Mourinho tried to spin the result off as a good one.
When you’re 8 points behind the league leaders, losing is not an option. When the two big teams rarely drop points against everyone else, even a draw isn’t such a decent result, despite the fact that this was the Camp Nou. Jose Mourinho prepared his players wonderfully for the match, but they forgot to follow through. Small mistakes, Lionel Messi and the usual decision to fall back instead of keeping on with the pressure.
Not everything was perfect about Real Madrid in the first half, but the decision to play with Mesut Ozil paid off. The pressure and the ball movement, through him and Xabi Alonso, exposed the patched up Barca defense time after time. Eventually, some excellent passing led to the first goal, and nearly to a second one, as Karim Benzema, dangerous, mobile and always free, couldn’t convert from close range. The moment that changed the momentum of the match.
Because something changed for Barcelona in that lucky break, and reverted for Real Madrid. Angel Di Maria was stuck on his wing, Mesut Ozil tried too hard and the pressure fell back on the Real Madrid defense, where suddenly Sergio Ramos was restored to his favorite position. Were the past two-three weeks just a mind trick by Mourinho? It wouldn’t be surprising.
At the end, all that was left was some brilliance from Cristiano Ronaldo. Gonzalo Higuain added nothing to Real’s match, but it was Ronaldo after a nice pass from Mesut Ozil that saved Mourinho a point at the Camp Nou. The second half was mostly Barcelona in a match that should have ended as a draw. The Portuguese star played with a hurt shoulder for nearly 30 minutes, hurting it twice more after initially injuring it, but staying on the pitch, looking very limited and in quite a deal of pain.
And in the same way Real can feel a bit unlucky they didn’t have a two goal lead in the first half after 24 minutes, they should feel lucky as Barcelona rampaged in the closing minutes of the match, with both teams abandoning tactics, going in favor of the home side. Pedro missed, Messi missed, Alexis missed, Montoya hit the cross bar. When Real Madrid forget about discipline and their gameplan against a rival that’s still a better, more talented side, it looks bad. Attack after attack by Messi and his gang, but some last ditch defending saved the day.
Alvaro Arbeloa showed once again that for big matches, he’s a little bit off the mark. A tad too slow, hardly any use when it comes to attack. He wasn’t too far from receiving two yellow cards and getting sent off, committing at least 4 fouls from behind on Lionel Messi and being a bit too easy to fall down, getting warned a couple of times by the referee.
Mourinho came back to his go-to lineup. No Kaka until the very end, and had no effect. No Luka Modric who cost €40 million. Same players he won the La Liga title with, but only Cristiano Ronaldo really worth mentioning as someone who saved him a point. He’s going to need more than just CR7 if this 8 point deficit from Barcelona and Atletico Madrid is going to be erased, with a bit of luck. Not sure he’ll have enough of both.