NOTE: If you just logged on, Kxevin also put up his thoughts about the match in the post before this one. It’s a MUST-read, as always.
I woke up this morning and opened my eyes (although not necessarily in that order). I looked to the left to see the woman of my dreams sleeping by my side. Yup, still there. Check. I peeked a bit further at the alarm clock besides our bed to make sure I hadn’t overslept. The time read 06:53. Check. I examined my body to make sure nothing was missing – you can never be too sure these days with culés getting robbed left and right. I seemed intact. Check. Oh yeah, and that sinking feeling in my stomach? Check!
Here’s what I know. We stepped onto enemy grounds with what many consider to be our best Copa line-up of Pinto, Jordi Alba, Puyol, Piqué, Dani Alves, Busi, Xavi, Cesc, Iniesta, Messi and Pedro. We faced an adversary who played with subsitutes at all five* defensive positions. The end result was 1-1. From there on it gets fuzzy.
You see, there are a myriad of ways of looking at yesterday’s result. The positive way. The doomsday perspective. With a wishful manner of thinking. Or with an attitude of resignation. That dignified point of view. That outraged state of mind. Who’s to say what is right or wrong? That objective matter-of-factualism gets pushed out of the brain by that sinking feelin in the stomach.
We couldn’t even beat a M*drid that was playing with a completely second choice defense! Whose coach is so beleaguered he has been hiding from the media for more than a month. Whose goalkeeper replaced the goalkeeper who replaced the goalkeeper who had to drive his injured self to the hospital a couple of weeks ago and will be out until March. Whose defense was led by an aging Portuguese who at this point couldn’t outrun a fish on a mountain top. Whose right back was playing left back so that their broken-backed holding midfielder could play right back. A team that even before the specific problems mentioned above managed to play itself out of contention of even hoping to challenge for the Liga before it reached its halfway point.
How could we not win this game? Not to mention that we were several key interventions and a Ronaldo miracle miss from getting our asses handed to us. We were supposed to go in for the kill, but if they play us this well with those players, what hope is there when we meet again one month from now? Or when we meet in Europe? It’s the end of
the world our domination of the clásico.
We went to their house and carved open their defense on several occasions. We put Jordi Alba, Cesc (3 times), Xavi and Pedro clear on goal. With better finishing we could have scored a manita. We were unlucky not to achieve numerical superiority when among others the corpse formerly known as Ricardo Carvalho hung on for dear life (and our shirts, and the ball).
Our defense actually looked good, as we repeatedly headed out corners and managed to keep Cristiano Ronaldo in check for the first time in a trillion** clásicos. How friggin’ amazing is Gerard Piqué? Gone are the days when he sleepwalks on the pitch while daydreaming of Colombian hips. When he plays like this he is fully deserving of his place in the FIFA world team starting line-up or whatever it is called.
Also… Dani Alves is back, beeyotch! Steadily slaying all doubters and naysayers, playing all over the pitch making key stops in the defense while attacking at will. Adriano who? Montoya what? Daniel Alves Da Silva. Say the name, the man ain’t done.
My prevalent state of mind in the wake of yesterday’s game, as that of the people I watched it with. The less I write about this, the better.
Real Madrid Club de Fútbol are the second best team in the world and the reigning league champions. They played their hearts out by pressing us all over the pitch throughout almost the whole game, disrupting our offense and destabilizing our passing game. Both teams had spells in which they had the better over the other.
And please don’t blame the referee. He was not biased in favor of the home team, who were called for four times more fouls than the visitors. He preferred to keep out of the way, and let the players play. So what! Some games are gonna get called like that.
If you wanna blame someone blame Raphaël Varane. What a player! Blocked Xavi’s blast back into the past. Prevented Cesc from scoring a certain two zero. Headed in the equalizer. And all that in his first clásico ever. At only 19 years old he played a better clásico than Pepe or Sergio Ramos ever have, and all without committing a single foul. Amazing.***
One out of six. That’s right. Just when culés the world over started to get used to wiping the cracks of our hineys with smooth white football jerseys they went and flipped the script on us.
Under Pep we won 9 out of a total of 15 clásicos played. Pep vs Mou, 6 wins out of 11, with 3 draws and 2 losses. Not only did we win more than half of our meetings, in some of those wins we embarrassed the [bleep] out of ’em. The 2-6 in their house. The “manita” of November 29, 2011. The 1-2 at the Bernabeu last season.
This season? Not so much. We won once, drew twice and lost once. That’s one win out of the last six games, for those of you counting along. Have M*drid got our number? Is their poor league form simply a result of internal power struggles and are they actually the better team? What does it mean when an opponent that no so long ago was our doormat gives us so many problems while playing with so many substitutes?
Then again… They didn’t go one-on-one with Pinto, not even once. They had one sure shot at goal, which their superstar headed wide. We had a whole plethora of scoring opportunities. Xavi hit the bar. Pedro missed from five yards. Cesc from eight. We put Messi through on goal only for a linesman to confuse “5 meters onside” with “offside”. Heck, we didn’t even play that well and still should have won the game if only we converted some more chances. Surely 1-1 was an unfair result based on the game we just saw. Most of us in the bar I was watching were upset that we threw the game away.
Head vs Stomach
And that is the overriding feeling I am left with, both when I try to examine the game rationally, in my head, and when I lived the game. We basically threw the game away by not converting the scoring opportunities we created. Sure, we could have lost this one. But we should have won it. This was our chance, maybe not to crush our rivals, but at least not to hearten their spirits at the dawn of this season’s business end. All we had to do was put away some chances. As a team we were guilty of the very same thing a lot of us keep critizing Alexis**** for.
Some might argue that 1-1 at the Bernabeu is a good result. With this I disagree. M*drid have played well at the Camp Nou for the last two years. The only one they lost at our home was this year’s Supercopa game in August and they weren’t quite match fit that game. They will score. Which means that after 4 years of beating our foes, we are now going towards a must-win game.
And you know what? Chances are that that won’t be the last must-win game against our most hated rivals this year. Heads and stomachs might turn, but the heart stays steady. ¡Visca Barça!
“We have learned our lesson.”
Gerard Piqué i Bernabeu
* Five positions? What about Arbeloa? Since he is a right back, and arguably the “weakest” link in a very strong team, I consider him a substitue when positioned on the left side of the field.
** no, not a trillion. I think seven. If I am mistaken you’ll let me know about it in the comment section!
*** Varane. What a game! I am totally jealous right now, got a man crush on the enemy. We should buy the kid. Let Operation FIGO’S REVENGE begin!
**** Speaking of Lexus, I liked what he showed when he came on. Very dynamic, lot of movement. Exactly the type of intensity we need against M*drid.