Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid: Jose Mourinho's Tactical Perfection Stupefies Barca
In one of the most surprising results of 2013 so far, Real Madrid rocked the Nou Camp by defeating archrivals Barcelona 3-1.
The El Clasico looked poised to become a classic Copa del Rey semifinal, with the first leg ending 1-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
An early Cristiano Ronaldo penalty eased the nerves of Los Blancos. Barca did their best to work their way back into the game, but Real hit them with two quick second-half goals courtesy of Ronaldo and Raphael Varane to take a three-goal advantage.
Barcelona started the game as if they meant serious business.
Clearly spurred on by serious criticism of their lack of penetration and attempts on goal at the San Siro in the previous weak, Barcelona fired off a shot within 60 seconds of the first whistle.
Minutes later, good work from Pedro down the right flummoxed Fabio Coentrao and the Spaniard found Lionel Messi inside the box. Unfortunately, he flashed a shot just wide of Diego Lopez's goal.
After shaking off an early stupor, Madrid felt their way into the game and Jose Mourinho's game plan began to come to the fore.
They soaked up pressure by stacking two holding midfielders in front of the defensive line and, after winning the ball back on the edge of their own area, would immediately fire a long ball in behind one of Barca's marauding full-backs.
The deadlock was broken in this fashion—Gonzalo Higuain set Ronaldo off down the right touchline and the former Manchester United winger tricked Gerard Pique into lunging in.
The referee awarded a penalty and Ronaldo made no mistake.
Barca responded immediately with pace and urgency, but two successive appeals for their own penalties were correctly ignored.
With Ronaldo's confidence up, he tallied three efforts from distance, as Jordi Roura's men failed to close him down. By the 30-minute mark, Madrid had tallied eight serious attempts on goal—a statistic driving els Blaugrana's stand-in coach mad on the touchline.
The second half started at breakneck speed, as Messi latched onto a through-ball and put the Madrid defence under pressure, but nothing came of it.
Moments later, Barca split Madrid in half for the first time. Though Jordi Alba found his way in behind Alvaro Arbeloa and cut the ball back from by the byline, Sergio Busquets' effort was well-blocked.
As the crowd at the Camp Nou urged their side on, sensing blood, a textbook counterattack spoiled the party.
Sami Khedira's hoofed clearance gave Angel Di Maria the opportunity to rinse Carles Puyol in a foot race and shoot for goal. Manuel Pinto parried the ball, but it fell to Ronaldo who, from six yards, kept his cool and smashed it home.
Roura reacted by bringing in David Villa, but that did nothing to stem Madrid's flow of chances.
Another long ball saw Pinto racing out to clear from outside the box; then Raphael Varane nodded home a Mesut Ozil corner.
At that point, Barca needed four goals and the tie was over. However, there was time for one more strike, as Andres Iniesta picked Alba's run out and the Spanish left-back fired home a goal in the dying minutes.
A tactical masterpiece from Mourinho and his men, but questions must be asked of Roura. Barca need Tito Vilanova back as quickly as possible.
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