Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Real Madrid conquer the Copa del Rey

Real Madrid signed Jose Mourinho to win titles and, ten months later, the Portuguese coach delivered by defeating Barcelona 1-0 in the final of the Copa del Rey and winning said trophy for Real Madrid for the first time in 17 years. All those who thought Mourinho’s style was not enough to defeat Guardiola’s team should now look the other way. The squad tossed him in the air in celebration because they know how just how much they owe him.

This match had nothing to do with Saturday’s Clasico. Intensity took over from the start, with Pepe in midfield and Ozil as a winger. Mourinho’s men took the initiative against a Barcelona side with doubts and surprised by Real Madrid’s strategy. Barça hardly kept possession and the Whites focused on reaching Pinto’s goal in as few passes as possible. Real Madrid constantly stole the ball from Barcelona in midfield and Ozil had the first chance in the game with a shot that grazed one of the posts on the 18-minute mark. Both squads played to the limit and the referee was kept busy.

Cristiano Ronaldo had a shot on target that was saved by Pinto in the 27th minute, and another a few minutes later (32’). Guardiola’s team tried to ease the pressure any way they could; they didn’t feel comfortable with or without the ball and just didn’t know how to put a stop to Real Madrid’s frantic pace. The clearest chance in the entire first half was also Real Madrid’s: Ozil served a great curved cross into the small box and Pepe headed it beautifully, only the ball hit the near post. Incredibly, Real Madrid hadn’t netted a strike yet by half-time and the score remained 0-0.

Barcelona positioned themselves better in the second half and kept possession longer. But Real Madrid carried on as before, blocking open spaces, chasing the ball and marking every opponent. Barça had their first shot on goal on the 51-minute mark, but the ball went over the crossbar. Mourinho’s men pulled back slightly and looked to score from long passes to surprise Pique and Mascherano and make good use of the speed of Ronaldo, Ozil and Di Maria.

Barcelona started to pressurise more and Real Madrid began to feel exhaustion for their efforts in the first half. The referee then decided to disallow a goal by Barça because Pedro was offside. Mourinho decided to replace an exhausted Ozil with Adebayor. Barcelona started to put even more pressure on the Whites and had shots on target through Messi and Pedro, but captain Iker Casillas pulled rank to save the day many a time.

Everything was up for grabs in the final minutes of the match. Casillas made a spectacular save to clear a great shot from Iniesta (80’) and everything pointed to the game going into extra time. Di Maria nearly sealed the match on the 89-minute mark, but Pinto made an extraordinary clearance, keeping the score 0-0.

Barcelona continued to keep possession in the opening minutes of extra time, with Real Madrid playing close to each other and looking for a swift and solid counterattack. Cristiano had a great chance from a crossed shot in the 98th minute and missed, but he wouldn’t miss again: after Marcelo stole the ball from Barcelona and passed it to Di Maria, the Argentine served a phenomenal cross inside the box and Ronaldo headed it into the back of the net just before half-time.

Guardiola replaced Villa with Affelay in the second half. Real Madrid just had to resist for another 15 minutes and the title was theirs. Guardiola’s team kept possession, but hurt from the conceded strike, had no chances to score. Real Madrid covered every single open space and crack in their lines driving Barcelona to despair. An exhausted Di Maria was sent off, but it didn’t matter anymore. The referee blew his whistle and Mestalla Stadium erupted. The Real Madrid players hugged each other, ran around the pitch, jumped… They simply went crazy. They will bring the Copa del Rey with them to Madrid.
The composition of players

Barcelona : Pinto, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano, Xavi, Busquets Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Villa.

Real Madrid : Casillas, Arbeloa, Ramos, Carvalho, Marcelo; Khedira, Pepe, Xabi Alonso; Ozil (Adebayor), Ronaldo, Di Maria.

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