Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid

Karanka yesterday said Real Madrid have been around for 109 years and that they would fight to the end. And that's what they did. Every player faced up to the challenge and looked for the turnaround following a first leg match in which referee Stark unfairly sent Pepe off, therefore conditioning tonight's game. Higuain scored the opnener, but it was disallowed by De Bleeckere, deeming Cristiano Ronaldo fouled Mascherano as he fell on the ground after clashing with Pique.
Mourinho decided to use Kaka and Higuain in the starting lineup, looking for more chances on goal and frequent passing. The Whites pressurised from the start, running to cover all open spaces and chasing all Barcelona players around. This disconcerted the locals in the opening minutes; Real Madrid's efforts on Camp Nou's incredibly fast pitch were extraordinary, as evidenced by Lass and Xabi Alonso's work in defence.

Neither side had chances to score in the first half-hour, but things got crazy in the last 15 minutes of the first half when Barcelona came close to tallying strikes four times through Messi (twice), Villa and Pedro, forcing Casillas to showcase all his quality to save the day. Despite being besieged by Guardiola's men, Real Madrid kept looking to score and came close when Cristiano Ronaldo crossed the ball smack in the centre of the box following a fast counterattack, but Valdes reached it just before Di Maria.

Controversy hit again three minutes into the second half: Cristiano Ronaldo was tackled by Pique and, as he fell on the ground, made Mascherano trip just as Higuain controlled the ball and scored a strike. Referee De Bleeckere disallowed it, deciding Ronaldo had fouled the Barcelona defender. This crucial decision was followed only six minutes later by Barcelona's goal, which was netted by Pedro following an assist from Iniesta.

Adebayor then came on for Higuain and,  on the 60-minute mark, Ozil replaced Kaka. Madrid had to try it all to score. Di Maria reached the goal moments later, hitting the post. The ball landed back on his feet and served it to Marcelo, who managed to defeat Valdes. The Camp Nou was silenced and the game was on. The Madridistas had 26 minutes in which to try the turnaround and they constantly persisted in their search for more goals. Meanwhile, Barcelona's intention was to keep possession for as long as possible in order to lower the pace to Madrid's game, and Guardiola replaced striker Villa with Keita to add muscle to his midfield.

The clock was ticking and Real Madrid still needed two goals. Barcelona decided to wait for them in their half of the pitch, looking for the occasional counterattack with which to seal the match. The dream to reach the final slowly started to fade, but in the end Real Madrid were true to their 109-year history and fought to the very end.

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