Sorry to get the report up very late people. I’m having internet problems at home, so I had to go to a friends house this morning, and now I have forgotten my match notes. So a bit of a mess.
Anyway, I’m not going to go through the game minute by minute, as we all should have watched this game by now.
The first half was decently contested I thought. Madrid however made their sit back and counter tactics very clear and honestly my reaction is, WOW, so innovative Mourinho. But, it seems Madrid and the fans are happy with it, anything not to lose. As a result we dominated possession all game long and they had a few good chances on the counter and set pieces. Messi had the first really good chance of the game after Xavi put him through nicely. Lio did all the hard part but then tried to chip Casillas rather than slot in past him low. This is the 3rd game in a row Messi has unsuccessfully tried to chip a goalie. We also had the clearest of clear penalties turned down. The ball was free in the box, Villa and Casillas went for it and David Villa CLEARLY touched the ball left and Casillas clearly took Villa’s feet from under him. I even celebrated the penalty immediately and was dumbfounded when it was not called. Then I remembered we were in the Bernabeu. Messi nearly got a goal late on with some awesome 1-2 play with two different players before putting in a decent shot that Casillas managed to save. That’s the first half chances off the top of my head. Madrid had a few breakaways that our defense managed to put in last-ditch tackles and we also cleared the ball off the line just before half time. But honestly, I was feeling quite comfy abouy our play and the lack of theirs. The ref was having a very odd game. He was sometimes getting the decision spot on and so often completely bottling in. But he would get much worse in the 2nd half and really be quite Madrid bias.
Early in the 2nd half CR struck the post with one of his trademark dipping freekicks. However the free kick was total nonsense. It was either the one where Iniesta very clearly stole it or when CR just went down for no reason after backing into Adriano. At this point I had lost all faith in the ref.
We scored pretty soon after that. Villa finally beat the offside trap after again Xavi put him clean through. Albiol then wrestled him down in the box and it was a clear penalty and sending off. Both were called and Messi slotted the penalty in. After the red were totally dominated. We passed them to death and really should have put the game away. Xavi hit the bar and Villa fluffed a few really scoreable chances usually set up by Messi.
Then the ref had another moment in the spot light when he incorrectly called a penalty on an Alves tackle with Marcelo. Dani clearly made contact with the ball, basically no contact with Marcelo, but that little idiot conned the ref into giving it. CR stepped up and scored.
Both teams then tried to get all 3 points. Villa again could have scored a chance set up by Xavi, but Madrid had their chances to with a Khedira shot. But Villa really should have clinched it late on. Again Xavi split the defense, Villa made a perfect run, but inexplicably completely mis-controlled the ball with acres of space and only Casillas to beat. I was so disappointed by this lack of composure and confidence.
It therefore finished 1-1. The Madrid press is taking it as some sort of victory, bu I do not see that at all. Madrid again acknowledged our superiority by sacrificing possession and focusing on defending and counter attack. It may work and all, but it’s how small sides play big sides. Mathematically, I would have taken a point pre game and therefore am at peace with it now. Keeping an 8 point lead with just 6 games left is a solid lead especially considering our last games versus Madrid’s. But, I feel totally safe in saying we could have easily won and I take comfort from that. I also feel our defense did an awesome job today in handling their few attacks forward. The return of Puyol was awesome news and he did a pretty tidy job before coming off with a thigh strain. The reports are it was precautionary and not serious. The Barça players share my sentiments, none more so than Xavi. This was his post match comment.
“In no case is Madrid strengthened by this match. We have been superior, faithful to our style, and we leav ewith positive feelings in spite of not winning all 3 points”.
That’s pretty much how I felt as well. Player wise I think the only one that disappointed at times was Villa. His overall play was much better than matches before, for example his touches and runs were very good, but his finishing is screaming of lack of confidence right now. Otherwise I’d give 7.5 to 8s throughout. Adriano had his best game for me ever, Pique was solid, Xavi was making killer pass after killer pass, and Messi was owning defenders on his runs.
So 1-1, no harm, no foul. How this game impacts Wednesday I have no idea. Strangely I think Madrid feel buoyed by this win, but I think we will take more out of it. Looking forward to round 2, a much more important round as well as the first piece of silverware is up for grabs.