Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t great, but scored the goal coming against the momentum, probably clinching the title for Real Madrid with an impressive 2-1 win at the Camp Nou. Lionel Messi? He’d like to forget this game. Jose Mourinho and his team were flawless tactically, while Pep Guardiola seemed to concede the match from the first moment with a weird lineup.
It’s been a long time since Real Madrid beat Barcelona at the Camp Nou. More than four years, without a win, without even scoring a goal in three disappointing visits, seeing Barcelona come away with the title. No more. Mourinho finally found the right formula against one of Barca’s weakest performances of the season, definitely at home.
Leaving Alexis, Fabregas and Pique on the bench was weird. From the moment of the kick off, something was amiss. Lionel Messi was too alone, while Andres Iniesta couldn’t find anyone to feed in the box, while Tello and Dani Alves failed to impress on the wings. Thiago was decent in the middle of the park, but he couldn’t create anything magical or resembling an opportunity.
Real? Not just Khedira and Xabi Alonso this time against a loaded Barcelona midfield. Mesut Ozil played a fantastic game, not just because of his assist to Cristiano Ronaldo in the second half. He was always the extra man to come and help when Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago or Messi looked to create something special. Pepe and Sergio Ramos weren’t perfect, but they had a lot of help against the very few Barcelona penetrations into the box.
Sami Khedira was offside, slightly, when Real stunned the Camp Nou with the early goal, but it was too close to call, even after 5 and 6 replays from different angles. You can’t blame the linesman for injustice. It had more to do with poor defending. The retaliation everyone expected didn’t come. Real did go back instead of continuing their high pressure during the first half, but Barcelona looked lost, unable to figure out a way through. Guardiola was late to react.
In the second half? More of the same, as Barcelona failed to create more than an occasional chance. Only when Alexis came on, surprisingly for Xavi instead of Tello who was reckless in his decision making, did everything change. A little havoc in the box, and Alexis, who was fantastic in the previous clasico back in December, through determination, made it 1-1.
While everyone felt that Barcelona were ready to mount the comeback, Real stung back, taking the air out of the Camp Nou. Mesut Ozil found a surging Cristiano Ronaldo with a beautiful assists and Ronaldo finally hushed his critics and the Barcelona fans with a brilliant finish from not the easiest of angles.
The title? Real Madrid, for the first time since 2008. No chance Barcelona can come back from this, no chance Real Madrid drop a 7 point lead. All that’s left is the Champions League, and a very difficult second leg against Chelsea, with Guardiola needing to be a bit more precise with his lineup selection, with Lionel Messi needing to produce something a bit more special than his bland display against Real Madrid.
Big winners? Jose Mourinho. I don’t know how long it’ll take, maybe even tonight, but he has saved a lot things inside. Now that he’s beaten Barcelona, a sweet and deserving victory, without parking the bus and without violence, he deserves to have his say. Even if what he’ll say won’t have too much to do with the truth.