|Spain striker David Villa netted two of Barcelona's five goals.|
By Matt Scrafton
Tuesday 30 November 2010
Barcelona humiliated their age old rivals 5-0 last night in a scintillating display, perfecting their unrivaled 'tika-taka' style of football in the process.
As the rain drove down on the hallowed turf, halfway through the second half at Camp Nou; Jose Mourinho, witnessing his side being outclassed in all areas of the field and already 4-0 down by this point - cut a dejected figure, slumped back in his seat in the away dugout. The self proclaimed 'Special One', was hiding. This is a sight rarely ever seen. And the Catalan faithful were in no mood to let him forget, as the jubilant 98,000 strong crowd taunted the trench coat-wearing, greying Portuguese fellow who had proved to be such a menace to Barcelona's ambitions in seasons gone by.
Many anticipated a close game, two sides too fearful to lose that first pawn from the chessboard, too hesitant to make that first mistake that could prove to be so costly. But that didn't happen, this is Barcelona, they do things differently here. This isn't the Premier League, and Mourinho should have known that better than anyone else. The former Barcelona translator made a host of fatal mistakes before the match had even kicked off; why was the more defensive minded left back Alvaro Arbeloa not preferred to the rapid and attacking Marcelo? What was the need for four attacking individuals in the starting eleven (Ozil, Di Maria, Ronaldo & Benzema) who had no intention whatsoever to track back and help defensive duties? Why were the back four instructed to keep such a high line, when it's evident that Barcelona - the passing masters of Xavi and Iniesta in particular - thrive against such tactics? It's all well and good doubling up on Messi and closing him down as soon as he drops short to receive the ball, but that's just a waste of effort when the midfield trio of Busquets, Iniesta & Xavi were given free licence to do as they so wished - a criminal offence if I ever saw one.
|The 'Special One' had no answers as Barca tore his side apart|
But alas, sometimes there's just nothing you can do. Madrid could have fielded eleven Roman gladiators out there last night and they still would have been pummeled straight back to the capital. Pepe Guardiola's men were lightning fast out of the starting blocks. An electrifying start to the game from Barcelona was rewarded as Xavi dinked over the oncoming Casillas in the tenth minute, and Pedro tapping in from close range following good work down the left by the ruthless David Villa to put the hosts 2-0 up before Madrid had ever really got to grips with the game. The game was as good as over before the petulant Cristiano Ronaldo began his childlike antics - diving left, right and centre, shooting as soon as he turned towards goal, and then culminating with a shove to the Barcelona manager on the touchline as he hunted for the matchball in a futile attempt to get back into the match. I should say it wasn't just Ronaldo who was at it last night, it's an unfortunate trait of Spanish football that plagues their otherwise near-perfect style of football, resulting in the pointless dismissal of Sergio Ramos in the final echelons of the game as he pushed Spanish teammate Carles Puyol to the floor. Hardly the most sensible of things to do, but I would be lying if I denied the bushy-haired defender had it coming to him, as he rushed down the field to crowd the referee at every possible opportunity to claim a free kick and a booking for a man in white. Even the majestic Messi wasn't faultless, falling to the floor without contact and trying to con the referee on several occasions.
Real were restricted to fruitless counter-attacks as the previously suspect Sergio Busquets anchored the midfield triangle with exact precision, allowing Messi, Pedro and Villa to get in behind the fragile-looking Madrid defence on a startling number of occasions. This would never have been allowed by Mourinho in his Chelsea days, or even at Inter for that matter. Barca would be confined to long range efforts or patient periods of possession, as the likes of Essien, Makelele, Mikel, Cambiasso and Zanetti were instructed to flood the midfield area and cut out any potential supply from the illustrious Xavi and Iniesta. Yet this did not prove to be the case last night, as Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira afforded the Spanish midfield duo the freedom of Catalunya as they pulled the strings of Guardiola's fluent template of stylistic football. Barcelona completed 89% of their attempted passes and held 63% of the games possession in total; proving how beneficial it can be protecting the ball from the opposition - not only is it attractive on the eye, yet can also be highly destructive when mobilised in the right manner. But for all of Barce's dominance in the first 45 minutes, Real were only two down and would surely return to the pitch more motivated and revitalised.
But Messi and co. merely redoubled their delicate manoeuvres; contriving a sublime through ball to set up their next elegant finish, as Villa struck home for the third. What followed purely embarrassed Real, as Villa collected his second and his side's fourth, profiting from another assist from the little Argentinian to slide the ball home between the legs of despairing Casillas. And this is where Barcelona are at their best, keeping hold of the ball, frustrating their opponents, consistently moving the ball from player-to-player, triangles being constructed all over the pitch as Real were simply passed to submission. Xavi really came in to his own now, not as if he had gone missing before, completing 110 passes in total (a new record for a La Liga fixture). Substitute and youngster Jeffren came off the bench and completed the rout late on to add to Madrid's woes, pouncing on a measured lay-off from fellow substitute Bojan, ensuring Barcelona's rise to the top of La Liga in the process. Guardiola's Catalans now sit two points ahead of the tormented Madrid as the Spanish league nears the winter break.
Barcelona v Real Madrid line-ups:
Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Abidal, Pique, Puyol, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Villa.
Real Madrid: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Carvalho, Pepe, Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Ozil, Di Maria, Ronaldo, Benzema.
Referee: Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez.
Goals: Xavi, Pedro, Villa x2, Jeffren.