Despite Karim Benzema scoring after 22 seconds and despite their more impressive season so far, Barcelona hold domination over Real Madrid for yet another La Liga Clasico with another Lionel Messi master class in efficency, despite not scoring a goal, while Cristiano Ronaldo continued to disappear when seeing Puyol and Pique.
A battle of styles, and Real failed to force hers on the match. The pressure worked for 15 minutes and Cristiano Ronaldo looked destined to make this match his throning 90 minutes as the best player in the world, but Victor Valdes recuperated well from his early mistake.
It was a terrible Victor Valdes pass that gave Karim Benzema an incredible opening goal as the Santiago Benabeu exploded with what looked like a potential thashing. It was all smiles on the Real bench at that moment and for the next minutes, before Xavi, Iniesta and Lionel Messi took over.
The Barcelona midfield simply put its foot down on the break and just slowed things down to a Barcelona pace. No more counter attacking for Real, the possession that wears you down came back, Lionel Messi was impossible to stop while Alexis Sanchez proved his worth for the first time.
If anyone had doubt about the Chilean forward who actually played as a striker, they’re gone now. The hottest player on the squad right now scored the equalizer in the 30th minute after a fantastic Messi build up. If it wasn’t for Casillas, Lionel Messi’s name would also have been on the scoreboard once or twice.
David Villa and Pedro? Right now, Guardiola’s latest big signing is the best man up front he’s got, aside from no. 10, who’s in a league of his own. The whole Messi – Ronaldo debate? Postponed for later. Lionel Messi created the first goal and the third, finished with a fantastic Dani Alves cross that Cesc Fabregas in a hard working effort finished to kill Real’s hopes of beating Barcelona for a few months.
Angel Di Maria was destined to be the key man for Real Madrid. His speed and breakthrough ability shone too rarely through 68 minutes he played in, not drawing enough attention and creating too much troubles on the wings. Same goes for Mesut Ozil, who pulled another disappearing act for Real in a big match. Maybe it’s Barcelona’s defensive midfield that gets to him, maybe it’s something else.
And the moment Barcelona took over, Mourinho and Real had no answer, as usual. I don’t know if it’s a coaching thing or just pure intelligence on the pitch, and with Xavi and Iniesta on one side, you actually think about the latter. Adjustments, successful ones, were made only on the visiting side, as Real’s system broke down and all their attempts became more wild, random and disorganized. Like in six of the last seven Clasicos, it was a drowning ship with each man trying to save it on his own.
Real Madrid do have a bright side from all of this – Still a game in hand, which should, as the La Liga usually goes, put Real Madrid on top with a three point lead while Barca go to Japan and try to add another trophy to the loaded cabinet since Guardiola arrived. #2 – No one got sent off. Pepe and Ramos did their best and tried, but the referee actually kept the match rather calm, despite attempts to escalate matters on both sides.
It was another case, as the bottom line goes, of Barcelona’s best players bringing their A game. Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Alexis, the defense and even Valdes after his mistake. Everyone played their part, and were simply better than the team that was the best in Europe these past few months. Real Madrid, and Jose Mourinho, the new quiet Mourinho, might have taken a serious blow to the ego and confidence. But the early lead they built up, in the league, will be harder to erase than the super early lead they built on the field tonight.