Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona: 6 Things We Learned from the Copa Del Rey Final
Real Madrid saw off Barcelona in the third El Clasico meeting of the season by the score of 2-1 to win the Copa del Rey for the 19th time in the club's rich history.
After Angel di Maria opened up the scoring with a wonderful run, Marc Bartra headed home a beautiful effort to restore parity in the second half. Then Gareth Bale turned on the jets for a solo run to score the winner late in the second half to give Real Madrid the title.
It was yet another emotional meeting between the two clubs and a thrilling match for neutral fans. Yet for Barcelona, it was a third loss in a row in all competitions as the Catalans continue to underperform.
Now that Real Madrid have lifted their first piece of silverware this season, their attentions will turn to the Champions League and La Liga title race as they are still in the running for a possible treble year.
There are plenty of lessons that can be taken away from the Copa del Rey final, but there are even more questions at this point. In this article we will take a look at six major lessons and questions from the 2-1 thriller and look at what the result means for both clubs.
What Is with All of the Crosses?
The biggest question on everyone's mind throughout the entire match had to be, "What is with all of these crosses?"
Barcelona, which made their reputation on keeping possession and making sure the ball stays on the ground, spent 90 minutes whipping in crosses that were rather pointless. Dani Alves and company wasted countless opportunities with these crosses that gave the club little chance of victory.
With Barcelona having no target man or striker who is capable of playing an aerial game, crosses usually just gave possession back to Real Madrid. They have little place in Barcelona's system, so it's odd that they were so prevalent on Wednesday night.
The Catalans were able to score from a corner kick thanks to a beautiful header by Marc Bartra, but other than that, playing the ball in the air did more harm than good.
The question has to be asked at this point, and it is fair to scrutinize Tata Martino's preparation.
Did Real Madrid defend so strongly that Barcelona had no other option than to play a crossing game? Was their plan from the start to try to win headers? Where was the pure tiki-taka?
Even before the final whistle blew, there were more than a few questions that the club needed to answer. This was not the Barcelona that the world knows—something just isn't right.
The Tale of Two Transfers
Neymar and Gareth Bale were the two biggest transfers in world football last summer, and it seems only fitting that they battled it out in the Copa del Rey final.
There were doubts about Neymar when he joined the Catalans from Brazil, as some thought he would struggle to adapt, yet his price tag seemed to be a steal.
At the same time, Bale became the most expensive player in football history, much to the chagrin of Madridistas and pundits alike. Yet, it is quite easy to now say that he has justified his enormous fee.
As the Copa del Rey final came to an end, it was clear that these two transfers have ended in drastically different results.
One star showed up in a big way, while the other was left to hang his head.
While Bale was able to score the winning goal for Real Madrid and cause problems for Barcelona all night, Neymar used his only clear chance of the game to strike his shot off the post.
Neither one season nor one game is enough to compare purchases like these. However, at this point it is quite clear that Bale's purchase has left a smile on fan's faces, while the Neymar transfer has caused more problems than fine performances.
A Clasico Without Ronaldo or Messi
For the last few years, El Clasico has been all about the Lionel Messi versus Cristiano Ronaldo debate. Every time these two giants have met, it was a contest of who would outshine the other.
Yet on Wednesday that was far from the case.
Ronaldo was not able to feature due to an injury and was forced to watch the match from the stands. Messi, though fully fit, played all 93 minutes of the match but was invisible for nearly all of them.
It was the first time in recent history that neither Ronaldo nor Messi stole the show, and it can even be classified as a Clasico that they missed.
Real Madrid proved that they can win big games without Ronaldo, while Messi's lack of productivity in yet another match has raised bigger questions.
He could be saving himself for the World Cup, or possibly he isn't as healthy as we believe. Perhaps the Argentine is finding life difficult under Tata Martino lately. One thing is sure: We haven't seen Messi show up in the club's last few matches, and it has cost Barcelona dearly.
Real Madrid Won the Meeting That Mattered Most
The last two times Barcelona and Real Madrid met, the Catalans were able to pull off big victories. La Blaugrana took all six points off their rivals in La Liga play this season and had plenty of bragging rights to boot.
None of that matters now.
Real Madrid only beat Barcelona once this season, but it was in the Copa del Rey final. After the whistle blew, Real Madrid were lifting a trophy.
Barcelona can look back at their two victories over Los Blancos earlier this year with pride, yet those six points still see them third in the La Liga table. In a way, those big wins now mean very little in the grand scheme of things. The biggest part of every season is how you finish, not how you start.
The Catalans won both battles this season, but Real Madrid won the war.
Will Barcelona's Season Be Labeled a Collapse?
In the span of one week, Barcelona managed to be knocked out of the Champions League and be defeated in the Copa del Rey final. Add a La Liga loss to Granada during the weekend, and La Blaugrana have experienced the worst seven days of the year.
At this point, it is unlikely that Barcelona will win the La Liga title, even though they led the table for so long in the first few months of the season.
If Barcelona go on to miss out on the domestic trophy and finish the year without any major titles, it will be defined as a collapse. For the second year in a row, the Catalans played well throughout the season only to fall apart in the final months.
The club has so many issues to address at this point. The defense needs an overhaul, the midfield is starting to become far too predictable, and the forwards are struggling to even find the simplest of goals.
After this collapse, it will be a long summer of self-reflection for Barcelona. If the Catalans do not want to see their golden era finally end, they will need to make major adjustments, yet with the transfer ban they may not even be able to.
Real Madrid Are Still in Line for a Possible Treble
While Barcelona are lamenting their week of disaster, Real Madrid will be celebrating a Cup victory and the possibility of even more titles.
Los Blancos will be facing Bayern Munich in Champions League action in the coming weeks, and if they are able to get past the Germans, it is plausible to see them win La Decima.
At the same time, Real Madrid trail Atletico Madrid by three points in the league table, but with the easiest schedule remaining of the big three teams, Real could go on to win the La Liga title as well.
Though winning the treble will be difficult for Real Madrid, it is not impossible by any means. As they lift the Copa del Rey trophy, Carlo Ancelotti will be eyeing even more silverware.
All match statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com.
Is Barcelona's golden era coming to an end? Can Real Madrid win the treble? How will the rest of the La Liga season play out in Spain? Leave your thoughts and comments below!