Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: 6 Things Learned from Spanish Supercopa 1st Leg
Well that didn't quite go as expected, did it? The first Clasico of the 2012-2013 season is in the books and, true to form, it was full of surprises.
Thankfully, there was far less of the reckless tackling and usual fighting—Pepe's absence surely played a part there. And the diving was a bit less prevalent than usual—although Alexis Sanchez did his best to carry the load himself.
What we did have was surprisingly poor performances from many players on both sides, as well some exciting goals. We now have a week to wait for the finale, but we have already seen many things giving us a glimpse of what to expect in the second leg.
Read on to see six things we learned in the first leg of the Supercopa match between Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The Biggest Stars Failed to Shine
Messi and Ronaldo failed to have a huge impact in this one. Sure, both scored goals, but Messi scored a penalty while Ronaldo managed to take advantage of terrible positioning from Sergio Busquets and the defense—both still did well in those chances, though.
Neither were on top form and, on the whole, they both disappointed.
Messi missed two decent chances, his final key passes were off and he did not get into position to score often enough.
And Ronaldo was anonymous for most of the match. Aside from his goal, CR7 was barely involved in any major way. Of course, when the match strategy is to sit back, play for the counter and that key away goal, it is expected that he would not be on the ball very much.
The second leg should be more open with both players going for the win, so I expect more from both in Madrid.
Ozil Took a Step Back
Mezut Ozil is already one of the top midfielders in the world, and he is one of the three best in La Liga. Before the second half of last year, one of the German's biggest criticisms was how poorly he played in big matches, specifically against Barcelona.
In the last three Clasicos, Ozil had finally started getting over that hump against his team's biggest rival. He reverted back to his underperforming in big matches for the Euros, but international matches should always be viewed differently—so that was not necessarily indicative of what was to come in La Liga this season.
Unfortunately, Ozil has started the 2012-2013 journey off on a bad note. Real Madrid's No. 10 had very little impact on this match, even when taking into account the amount of possession he held. Yes, Ronaldo scored off of his corner kick, but the release was nothing special. And if Barcelona wasn't so atrocious on set-piece marking, Ronaldo probably wouldn't have scored.
It is in matches like these—when the play and tactics are not ideal—where Ozil's failure to impact games still leaves him a small step below the likes of Andres Iniesta and Xavi. In the end, this match is no more definitive than the last Clasico and I expect a much stronger outing next time around.
But for now, Ozil took a slight step back in his big-game growth.
Valdes May Have Cost Barcelona the Trophy
Let's just get to the point: What was he doing?!
Barcelona fans are not foreign to Victor Valdes mistakes. As great as his core skills are, his decision-making and judgment has failed him many times in the past. The pair of goals was a perfect encapsulation of Valdes' time as Barça's No. 1.
On the first goal, he had zero help from his defense and had no chance of stopping Ronaldo's header. For the rest of the night, his positioning, reading of crosses and set pieces, and shot-stopping were all fine.
But then he ruined an otherwise solid night with an unforgivable error. After cutting off a passed aimed at Angel di Maria, Javi Mascherano passed the ball back to his keeper. Di Maria then jogged toward Valdes without much intention to cause any trouble.
Fortunately for the Argentinian, the Bara keeper failed to get the ball away, allowong Di Maria to wrestle the ball away and put the ball in the back of the net.
No one can argue that Valdes has skill. He is an incredibly talented keeper with sound fundamentals. But the frequency and magnitude of his mental errors outweigh—or, at least match—his talent.
At this point, Barcelona's keeper may be as much a liability as a strength and has the power to cost his team titles. Alternatives need to be sought.
As if Jose Mourinho needed any more material to use against his rivals.
Let me first say that Barcelona's goal was beautiful on both ends. Javier Mascherano sent a perfect ball past Real Madrid's defense and Pedro did well to beat Coentrao on the trap.
The Barca winger then took a fabulous first touch and scored from a tough angle to draw his team level. The goal was spectacular, no question...but was it also offside? If you look at the video provided, there is certainly room for debate.
Pedro looks a tad offside in the freeze frame, but it is important to note that the camera angle is not level. If he was offside, it was not by much and the linesman was in perfect position to make the call.
Fans of both teams will see things in favor of their own team, but that does not mean both sides do not have a strong case here.
Same Old Story from Mourinho
From the outset of this match it was clear that Jose Mourinho was playing his predictable and notorious defensive game.
In league matches, the Real Madrid skipper allows his team to play open, attacking football against the best in the world, even Barcelona. But in cup matches where two legs are to be played, the Portuguese coach historically prefers to play a defensive game while targeting a valuable away goal in anticipation of the second leg.
This is especially the case when Mourinho plays the first leg away from home. Such was the case in the first Supercopa match, especially in the first half. Real were content to just let their opponents dominate possession and hope that Barcelona's back line were caught on their heels.
This strategy often prevents Ronaldo, Ozil and the boys from having a major impact. But when Real Madrid's midfielders are on top form, they are the deadliest counter to Barcelona's style of football.
They were not near top form in the first leg, but that did not stop them from leaving Camp Nou with a great result.
Real Madrid in Great Position
Let critics attack Mourinho all they want. As much as people will argue that the strategy is too reserved or too predictable, in this case, the strategy paid off big time.
Not only did Real Madrid get that first invaluable away goal, they also got a second when Victor Valdes forgot that there were other players on the field and failed to leave Barcelona with a two-goal advantage.
It was not pretty, it was not hugely entertaining, and Madrid's stars played poorly, but all that matters is the result.
Mourinho may be a rather predictable tactician, but that does not make him a bad one. His success speaks for itself. Each of his teams' goals for the first leg were met and he now has his squad in the driver's seat going back to the Bernabeu.
They will now head home with two away goals and being just one down to Barcelona. They still have to improve greatly, but the match will be more open and that should make Madrid more dangerous.
The home side could be favored—even slightly—to lift the trophy in the end.
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