Copa del Rey Quarter-final 1st leg: Real Madrid 1 FC Barcelona 2

Second half goals from Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal gave Barça a 1-2 victory in tonight’s Copa del Rey first leg tie at the Bernabeu. As in the league clash last month Madrid again took an early lead only to be destroyed once more by the quality of Barça’s passing game.

The contrast in the style of the two teams was evident as Barça kept the ball while Madrid resorted to some blatantly unsporting behaviour which will only bring shame to their name. Pepe was particularly guilty and it is really quite remarkable how he wasn’t sent off but I’m sure if the referee Sr. Muñiz Fernandez looked back at a recording of the game he would see that there were strong cases also to send Coentrao, Alonso and Carvalho for an early bath.

On seeing the starting XI from Madrid with Pepe back as a destroyer in midfield Mourinho’s intentions were clear. Madrid would work very hard to try and close down any space near their penalty area while trying to break quickly. Little had come of the early exchanges but in the 11th minute we lost the ball and Benzema sent a quick ball forward to Ronaldo on the left. Piqué came across to cover with Alves supporting him but Ronaldo did a quick stepover and went outside Piqué, the angle wasn’t great but Ronaldo’¡s low hard shot caught Pinto cold beating him through his legs by the post.

Were Barça ruffled by this goal? Not in the slightest. Three minutes later Iniesta forced Casillas into his first save and then soon after that Cesc’s delightful chip forward gave Alexis, with his back to goal, the chance to flick the ball on with his head, the ball looping over Casillas but coming back into play off the top of the post. Madrid tried to knock us off our stride with some heavy challenges. Coentrao had been let off a yellow as early as the 10th minute after a lunge at Alexis, then in the 17th minute Pepe gave the first of his disgraceful challenges, arriving very late to stamp on Busquets’s foot and he was lucky to only see yellow.

With the goal advantage Madrid’s attack was pretty non-existant. Ronaldo did get one more run forward after Alves lost the ball but he wasted the chance passing the ball straight at Abidal. Meanwhile at the other end Barça started making more chances. It wasn’t easy to get through the energetic back lines of Madrid, but the gaps started to appear. First Fabregas sent Messi into the area on the left and Casillas had to get down to make a good save from Messi’s low effort. Then Messi sent a magnificent diagonal pass to Iniesta on the left but Iniesta crossed instead of shooting and the defence intervened. And as we kept up the pressure Xavi threaded a ball into Alexis on the penalty spot and he laid it off to Iniesta in space but Iniesta’s shot wide was poor.

Casillas was forced into spectacularly running out of his area to head clear after another well-intentioned forward pass from Messi while the Madrid defence were often reduced to hoofing the ball anywhere.  One moment near the end of the first half demonstrated perfectly the difference between the teams as Sergio Ramos whacked a ball up into the clouds and Andres Iniesta controlled the ball with a touch of exquisite delicacy when the ball finally came down. There was still time for more controversial decision before half time as Alexis was called incorrectly offside when going through one-on-one with Casillas, and Lass also escaped without a booking after an unsporting foul on Busquets.

That we could go in a goal down at half time seemed a real injustice. The lack of skill and ideas from Madrid was remarkable and clearly demonstrated when they managed to kick the ball into touch just six seconds after kicking off the second half. Barça kept to their game and kept moving the ball and moving the ball. However, when the goal came it was not from a typically elaborate Barça passing move but from a simple corner on the left. Xavi flighted the ball over most heads towards the far post where captain Carles Puyol got in front of the dormant Pepe for a spectacular diving header past Casillas.

Puyol had scored from a corner in the same goal in our 2-6 win at the Bernabéu in May 2009 and on the merits of the teams we might have had a similar score tonight. Fabregas chipped in another great assist for Iniesta whose shot clipped off Ramos before cannoning off the top off the post. Madrid did manage one brief period of possession which led to Altintop’s cross finding Benzema at the far post and he was also denied by the post, but now it was really all Barça.

Pepe who played like the school playground bully was then caught out by the camaras clutching at his face trying to get Cesc booked. Mourinho didn’t have a clue what to do so he brought on Ozil and Callejon but one wonders at his instructions when Callejon managed to get booked for fouling Messi less than two minutes after coming on. However, the games most shameful moment then came as Pepe went over to the floored Argentinian and in an act of sneaky cowardice deliberately trod on his hand. – Pepe, you are a disgrace to yourself, a disgrace to Real Madrid and a disgrace to football. Please hang up your boots and go and do something more positive with your life. Pathetic!

It was a clear sign of Madrid’s desperation, the fouls started coming more frequently as Madrid struggled to contain us. However, there is no containing the three times Ballon d’Or Leo Messi, in the 77th minute Messi waited for his moment before chipping a splendid pass into Abidal, yes Eric Abidal, our left back who has only scored once before for us, and Abidal controlled with his chest before stabbing the ball past Casillas into the far corner. Barça had again gone to the Bernabéu and danced their way past the challenges of Los Blancos, now Abidal and Alves performed a dance to celebrate the goal. And me with a grin from ear to ear.

Poor Madrid. The frustration they must feel in the face of such obvious superiority will be very hard to live with. Granero came on as a final sub for Madrid and he committed a foul within five seconds. The fouls in the last ten minutes continued to come with one from Carvalho on Messi that should really have merited a straight red and Madrid managed not to concede again.

Let’s not mince words here, Madrid and especially Pepe were a disgrace. The fact that the yellow card count was Madrid 4 Barça 3 is really quite unbelievably given what went on. But despite all the negative tactics and bad refereeing calls we still managed to get an excellent result to take to Camp Nou next Wednesday. We never allowed ourselves to get provoked, though I did think Cesc was going to lose it for a minute, and that shows a lot of character given the provocation. Barça have played seven times at the Bernabéu under Pep Guardiola and we have five wins and two draws. This is now the third time we have gone there this season and each time Madridistas try to build it up as the time they will beat us and therefore confirm that Barça are at the end of our winning cycle, and each time they fail. Tonight I am very proud to be a culé, we have to finish the job next week but we can hold our heads up high knowing that whatever Real Madrid may do to other teams they cannot do it to us. And from tonight’s evidence they are still a long way from matching us.

Real Madrid: Casillas; Altintop, Ramos, Carvalho, Coentrao; Lass (Ozil m66), Alonso, Pepe (Granero m80); Ronaldo, Higuaín (Callejon m66), Benzemá.

Barça: Pinto 6; Alves 7, Puyol 9, Piqué 7.5, Abidal 8, Busquets 8, Xavi 8.5 (Thiago m86), Iniesta 7.5, Fabregas 8 (Cuenca m88), Messi 8.5, Alexis 7 (Adriano m82)

Goals: Ronaldo m11 1-0, m49 Puyol 1-1, m77 Abidal 1-2

Yellow cards: m17 Pepe, m19 Piqué, m55 Busquets, m59 Coentrao, m68 Callejon, m79 Puyol, m87 Carvalho

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19 Responses to Copa del Rey Quarter-final 1st leg: Real Madrid 1 FC Barcelona 2

  1. Caleb says:

    Hey, great win! Great mental composure!

    I’m going to be perfectly honest. Messi did not have a good game. He did not work very hard on defense. He was absent for large stretches. Several times he was unable to make a play on the ball because he was lazily sauntering back from the previous attack. Maybe I’m missing something, but until Pepe upset him by stepping on his hand he really didn’t do much (and it seems to be a trend as of late). (don’t get me wrong. I love Messi. He’s incredible. But I think he’s been really off his game lately. And he’s the only player on the team who seems to get away with only playing defense when he wants to. Cesc, Iniesta, and Sanchez all ran really hard even though they were in attacking positions as well. Just my opinion.)

    Alexis put in a ton of hard work and had a lot of good touches. Drew a lot of fouls and showed that the Real defenders are uncomfortable with him.

    Puyol always has a big game in big games. He didn’t let us down!

    Busquets really loves playing against Madrid. He broke things up on defense (without resorting to the hard tackles that nearly all other defensive mids employ). With the ball he looked like an adult playing with children. He knew what they were going to do. How they would try to shut him down. He’d let them think the were closing him down. Then he’d pull the ball back and pass a different direction, completely wrong-footing his opposition. He was majestic! My player of the match, if it weren’t for Abidal.

    Abidal had about two bad touches the whole game. He did a great job with the balls in the air. He played a lot of cool passes under pressure. And he scored the winner to boot!

    • freddyice says:

      i totally agree with u. Busquets was very calm through out n his composure is superb. Madrid seems a far cry from the era of real galaticos, zidane, ronaldo, beckham, figo, raul. I can only imagine this set playin the way morinho’s tutored side did yesterday. I still love madrid but not this shameful bunch. Somtimes i wonder y other liga teams practically concede defeat to madrid even b4 d game but will rather kill themselves playing us. Shame

  2. Fredegar says:

    We scored an important goal in a meaningful game… on a corner kick! My god, I can’t believe this has finally come to happen. I’m probably overhitting the point here but seriously, can anyone remember that happening? Cos’ Puyol goal in the 6-2 at the Bernabeu was from a free-kick near the surface no?
    Well, a fantastic performance, again. Madrid were really outplayed out there, for a team set to defend, they conceded an awful lot of chances and can estimate themselves happy with the score. How come we can look so poor against Espanyol, shaky against Betis at home, and then produce such a commanding performance at the Bernabeu? Are Madrid players that affected by our superiority that they stop performing against us?
    Then a question. Zonal Marking is referring to it but not explaining it: has anyone an idea of why it was Piqué who played on the “Ronaldo’s side” of the defense? When Puyol had absolutely destroyed him in previous games? It finally worked well cos’ Ronaldo was pretty quiet for the last hour of the game, but I’m pretty sure Puyol wouldn’t have allowed him such an easy shot for his goal. Well, Valdes wouldn’t have allowed it to go in either, but that’s another story…
    So a great goal for our captain, and a great goal for Abidal, I’m really happy to have him around for a few more years, he’s really not stopped to grow in stature in this team.
    And Feliz Cumple Pep!

    Oh, and Madrid are a total disgrace. Pepe aside, when Carvalho had to professionnally foul Messi to avoid a counter, he went straight for the knee. That should have been a red. And did you see Coentrao pretending to help Messi to stand up just to shove his head? Poor poor poor excuses of men out there…

    • barcacentralnic says:

      You are totally correct that Puyol’s goal in the 2-6 win was from a free kick not a corner as I say in my report but it was a cross from the same side at the same end. Puyol now has more goals at the Bernabeu than Cristiano has scored at Camp Nou.
      Not sure why Puyol wasn’t put closer to CR but maybe Pep wanted Piqué bringing the ball forward on that side.

  3. Fredegar says:

    Yeah it was maybe just that. Well it probably finished by working as we really asphyxied Madrid on the long term, but like for controlling of Ronaldo it took a bit of time, as Piqué misplaced a good few diagonals in the first half hour…

    Also, according to Tim Stannard in his blog for FourFourTwo before the game, Barça tied the all-time clasicos standing with this win with 86 wins for each team. Kind of historical stat I like 😉

  4. FCB-Parbo says:

    Happy happy happy, I’m sooooooo happy! What a great and fantastic team we have huh? A great write up as always Nic.
    “– Pepe, you are a disgrace to yourself, a disgrace to Real Madrid and a disgrace to football. Please hang up your boots and go and do something more positive with your life. Pathetic!” Enough said! If you think that Mou has left his disgraceful behaviour behind him then, well then you are so very very wrong.

    I feel so sorry for Messi, but he truly can stand those butchers doesn’t he? I just want to give him a warm hug to give him strength.

  5. bc9jaCulé says:

    I’m just so over the moon right now. Another brilliant win for Pep, his charges, culés and ultimately, football. But wait, how Pepe, Carvalho and Alonso didn’t each see a red is beyond me but I’d say that makes the victory even sweeter. And Pepe should get a minimum of a 10–match ban and a huge fine for such a callous, cynical and shameful act. I pray we beat them with a manita scoreline in the 2nd leg next week.

    Visca Barça!!!
    Força Barça!!!

  6. Fredegar says:

    Speaking of Tim Stannard, I loved his conclusion in his Football365 column http://www.football365.com/spanish-thing/7442325/Spanish-Thing

    “Considering the last game in the Catalan capital ended in José Mourinho poking the eye of a member of Barcelona’s technical team in frustration, Florentino Pérez and the Real Madrid fans must now be wondering how much further this obsession, this insecurity in the face of a brilliant Barcelona, can be permitted to go.”

  7. barcacentralenrique says:

    i must say, this team continues to leave in my awe. i feel so privledged, truly. what they are doing is historic and i think people are somewhat not appreciating this, especially ppl outside the club.

  8. barcacentralenrique says:

    abidals celebration was great too. i loved it

  9. Caleb says:

    I also thought Abi’s celebration was fabulous. Here’s the question: how did Dani Alves have the foresight to establish a special celebration with Abi (who’s scored two goals in his life)? Clairvoyance, no doubt.

    Here’s a sweet video of Busi last night.

  10. barcacentralnic says:

    More from Sid Lowe, this time on Pepe and Real Madrid’s image http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2012/jan/19/real-madrid-regression-barcelona-clasico

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