The epic clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona proved to be a rather one sided affair. The reigning Spanish champions showed once again why they are considered to be the best team in the world.
The media around the world was billing this to be a footballing spectacle. Despite not delivering in that regard, it did prove how brilliant a side Barcelona really are.
This was not their usual game, this was not the game against Arsenal. This was a performance which would have made even the Italians proud.
The Blaugrana's adaptability and versatility left many admirers astounded—and left the critics of their 'fragile' defence struggling for words.
It was a complete performance without being stylish, exuberant, or even beautiful. In short, this was a perfect game for a team which is not known for its solidarity.
Master of the Midfield
It was that Lionel Messi who scored the first goal and will probably steal the limelight, but the credit truly belonged to the man running the Barca midfield—Xavi.
He is by no means underrated, but he surely does not garner as much attention as his more illustrious teammates.
Xavi's vision throughout the game made one wonder whether he has some kind of a device to slow time down and find the man he wants with pinpoint precision.
His one-two with Messi saw 'El Pibe' score the opener. A brilliant ball behind the Madrid back line saw Pedro slot home Barca's second.
As Florentino Perez watched from the stands, one almost felt sorry for him for a moment. His vision of a beautiful Real Madrid was wrecked on his own turf by a team which displayed that substance is as important as beauty.
With Barca now in the semifinals of the Champions League, the possibility of them delivering the coup de grace to Madrid's summer spending spree in their own backyard is looking more and more likely.
Pep Guardiola is often discredited of his managerial achievements due to the sheer quality of his squad.
But tonight, in more ways than one, he showed that he is more than just 'in the right place at the right time.' His decision to put Daniel Alves in the middle of the park paid rich dividends. Cristiano Ronaldo struggled to get past the Brazilian throughout the night.
It was quite a masterpiece. By strangling Real's play, he opened up opportunities for his own side.
In Los Blancos' increasing desperation to get past the reigning champions, they left spaces at the back, which the peripheral vision of Xavi exploited repeatedly.
Lionel Messi also seemed to be instructed to curb his natural forward-leaning instincts. The Argentine played a much calmer game than usual.
He did not try to be over-exuberant, a criticism which can be levelled at Ronaldo to some extent.
And he answered the question that this writer asked of him a few days ago.
Defending Their Lead
The Barca defence is often chastised by the so-called football experts.
What many of them fail to remember is that this is the very same back four that has only conceded 19 goals in its 30 outings. Gabriel Milito, in particular, is showing exactly why Barcelona paid all that money for him three years ago.
Manuel Pellegrini was left frustrated. No matter how hard his troops tried, all their efforts crashed and burnt against the Blaugrana's sturdy rearguard. He was tactically outsmarted by the Catalan manager, and he will be left wondering whether this would also mean the end of his term in Madrid.
Barcelona now have not only the vital three-point lead in the La Liga race, but they also have the head-to-head lead.
This effectively means that the team will have to drop four points from now until the end of the season to lose the title, a scenario which looks highly unlikely right now.
For Real Madrid and their Galacticos it was a stern message: Money can't buy everything.
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