El Clasico: Barca Beat Madrid 2-0 But Puyol Proves The "Real" Difference
In an encounter that was supposed to be about the attacking flair of the Barcelona side overwhelming the defensive frailty of the unsure Madrid rearguard, it was in fact the old campaigner Carles Puyol who was the difference.
The much hyped encounter saw Barcelona dominate all spheres of the game with Yaya Toure and Xavi in imperious form in the middle of the park.
Lionel Messi, however, was misfiring out wide because of Real's plan of shutting down the Argentinian master, which they managed for the most part of the match.
Special mention to Sergio Ramos for the job he managed on Messi for most of the match. Never an easy one, for any player.
The possession battle was the key factor, as it is in most games and it was Barcelona who were able to snatch the lion's share with which they were finally able to create the openings they needed—even if it did take the introduction of Sergio Busquets for the hard working Eidur Gudjohnsen.
Busquets was only on six minutes and had made three or four one touch passes in different moves before he was again able to make a quick pass and move into the box to receive the ball back.
He was knocked down in a clumsy and tired challenge by Michel Salgado and the referee had no qualms in awarding the penalty and a yellow for the Madrid full back.
Up stepped the league's top scorer in Samuel Eto'o, and he blasted the spot kick to the left of Casillas, who then made a quite unbelievable save to deny the Cameroon international, amazing reactions from the Spanish No. 1. Casillas—not for the first time—denying Barca to keep the score at 0-0.
But the procession toward the Madrid goal continued, as their midfield was being quite simply overwhelmed.
They were definitely missing the pace and trickery of the suspended Arjen Robben and no one else could step into the pressure relieving role that the Dutchman often supplies to his team.
Barcelona could not quite make the killer blow as time and time again Messi and company were shut down by a revitalised Madrid back four. The corner count however was rising at a tremendous rate and in the statistics at the end it showed, with Barcelona having knocked over eleven corners to Madrid's four.
It was at one of the Catalan side's many corner kicks that the big defender Carlos Puyol was able to outjump his Madrid counterparts to nod the ball down toward the middle of the six yard box. Eto'o was there with an instinctual finish to put the ball over the line for the home side to go one up in the 83rd minute of play.
Highly commendable for a player some think is a bit petulant at times to be on hand to score the winner after the disappointment of his penalty miss.
But the work for the goal was done in the most part by the old campaigner, a man who lives and breathes Barcelona, Carles Puyol. Fantastic ability in the air displayed by the big centre back, no doubt drawing on some of his former skills as a striker many years ago.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of Madrid and they seemed to be waiting for the whistle when they were caught on the break by the pace of the tireless Thierry Henry who drew his man and sent Messi clear, one on one with Casillas.
The Argentinian then wiped away the individual disappointment of the preceding hour and a half with a beautifully taken chip over the advancing anchor man. Casillas took a swipe at it and Cannavaro also made a valiant attempt at a clearance but the ball nestled safely in the net for the second.
Overall a good result for the Catalan giants who are looking good for the title with the season only half gone. They controlled the match and outplayed a midfield that would definitely put a few top sides to a real test.
Puyol's contribution cannot be denied, his header from the corner proving instrumental in the breakthrough that broke the spirit of the proud Madrid side.
Ramos looks to have made a positive impact on the team already, despite the result they endured today. Only time will tell if he can turn them around but he seems to have already got the urgency and fight back into the side.
They have a lot to do now but definitely have the pieces to build with. With the addition of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and more gritty displays from the back four I cannot see it taking long for this team to pull themselves together.
If Ramos can sort out his midfield, which I am sure will be his top priority in the coming weeks, the next round of this famous encounter may not be the one-sided affair we witnessed today.
Credit has to go to Pep Guardiola who takes the spoils in his first Clasico as a manager, his game plan worked in the end and he looked a very happy man when the final whistle blew its tune of a Barcelona triumph.
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