Thursday, May 7, 2009

Video Highlights Barcelona vs Real Madrid ( 6 - 2 )

Real Madrid: Casillas, Ramos, Cannavaro, Metzelder, Heinze, Robben, Diarra, Gago, Marcelo, Higuain, Raul.

Barça (and not "Barca", which is a little boat, thanks to Brendan Ryan for that one): Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Xavi, Toure, Iniesta, Messi, Eto'o, Henry.

So it's the 158th La Liga clásico. And it's one Real Madrid simply have to win: they trail Barcelona by four points with only five games to go. They probably need to win it big as well: having lost 2-0 at Camp Nou earlier this season, and with a vastly inferior goal difference to the free-scoring Catalans, they need a three-goal winning margin in case the teams end the season level on points and head-to-head results are taken into account. Barcelona, meanwhile, will have the radge on in the wake of the Chelsea game, having been held goalless for the first time this season (though they'll have one eye on their visit to Stamford Bridge next week). What I'm trying to say is, this has the potential to be a cracker.

Real Madrid: Casillas, Ramos, Cannavaro, Metzelder, Heinze, Robben, Diarra, Gago, Marcelo, Higuain, Raul.

Barça (and not "Barca", which is a little boat, thanks to Brendan Ryan for that one): Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Xavi, Toure, Iniesta, Messi, Eto'o, Henry.

Kick off: 7pm BST, though I have absolutely no idea what time it is over in Spain. About 11pm, perhaps?

Hands are shaken, coins are tossed, Raul and Puyol nod to each other politely, and then... we're off! Barcelona get the ball rolling, and within 19 seconds Ramos miscontrols, Messi flicks the ball out right to Xavi, and a shot's sent sailing towards the top-right corner. Casillas parries the screeching effort to the floor and gathers. Wow.

2 min: Now Robben, freshly returned from injury, scuttles down the right and into the box. Abidal comes over to cover, and deflects his low cross wide right of goal. A couple of corners follow, Real achieving bugger all of note.

4 min: Having said that, something does happen from the second Real corner: Barcelona tear upfield through Messi, who eats up most of the pitch before rolling the ball to Eto'o in the centre. The striker whips a ball immediately wide right to Xavi, but Metzelder and Diarra swarm around him and snuff out the danger brilliantly. There's been a lovely open start to this game.

6 min: Eto'o scampers clear of the Real back line but he's offside. Then Messi jiggles around in the centre, just outside the area, then rolls the ball back to Eto'o, who attempts a curler towards the top right corner. Casillas claims well. Barcelona look dangerous every time they go forward.

7 min: Illa illa illa, Juanito maravilla!

8 min: Valdes comes out of his area to pass the ball to Abidal. The left back then fannies around, allowing Raul to steal the ball off him - and Valdes is miles away from his net! Raul's attempt to pass it into the gaping goal is awful, nearly reaching the far corner flag, but his blushes are spared as he's adjudged to have fouled Abidal. A ridiculous decision, but that's how the referee is rolling.

11 min: Barcelona stroke it around for a minute or so. Eventually Messi gets fed up, puts his head down, and bustles towards the Real box. He miscontrols, though, and puts the jets on to reach the ball. He fails, slips, and nearly ends up in the stand.

13 min: Messi's in the mood alright; now he zips after a long ball down the right and clatters Casillas as the keeper comes out of his area to hack clear.

14 min: WHAT A GOAL!!! Real Madrid 1-0 Barcelona. This was so simple. Ramos dances down the right, skating past Abidal as though he wasn't there. He reaches the byline and whips a ball across the front of the six-yard box, where Higuain waits to crash a special header into the top-right corner. That was a superb cross, taking out both Puyol and Pique. This match is on! The league is on!

16 min: Barcelona so nearly reply instantly, Henry zooming down the left , cutting into the box, and sending a high cross to the far post where Eto'o awaits. He tries to volley home, but can't quite contort his body to poke home.

17 min: WHAT A GOAL!!! Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona. Real pay absolutely no notice to the danger signs of a minute ago. Henry scoots clear after a lovely dinked pass by Messi down the inside-left channel. He lets the bouncing ball do the work, waiting for Casillas to come out and commit, before opening his body and stroking a pass into the bottom-right corner. That was delicious.

20 min: WHAT A GOAL!!! Real Madrid 1-2 Barcelona. This is amazing. Henry scampers down the left again and is unceremoniously upended by Ramos just outside the area by the byline. The free kick is sent over towards the penalty spot, where Puyol smashes an unstoppable header into the right-hand side of the goal. This is some match alright!

21 min: Bloody hell this is fantastic. First Robben skitters down the right and sees his low shot parried by Valdes. About 30 seconds later, Higuain zips down the right and hammers a low cross which clanks off Alves and looks like going in until it ricochets off Valdes. How this isn't 2-2 is beyond me.

24 min: Abidal puts his arm out, Robben runs into it face first, and the Barcelona defender is booked. He could have been sent off for that. The way he's been letting Real romp down the right, he may as well have been.

25 min: Messi is clear down the inside-left channel. He hammers a shot straight at Casillas, who parries clear. Eto'o, free in the centre, shoots him a glance. This is like basketball.

27 min: Iniesta, in the centre, rolls the ball right to Eto'o, cutting in from the wing. He welts an effort towards the top right; it's tipped over the bar brilliantly by Casillas. What a match this is.

29 min: Iniesta is clear in the Real box and really should score, but he over-elaborates and the chance is gone, smothered by the excellent Casillas.

32 min: Diarra slips a ball straight forward to Raul, who 25 yards out cuts across the ball and sends a first-time effort sailing just over the bar.

33 min: This is just an unbelievable game. Messi picks up the ball just to the left of the Madrid goal. Nothing looks on - so he attempts to scoop the ball carefully over Casillas and, from a tight angle, into the top-right corner! He nearly makes it, too, a wonderful effort Casillas claws out right at the death. That didn't make any sense geometrically.

36 min: GOAL!!! Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona. Barcelona are rampant now. Messi dances across the face of the box and passes an effort just wide left of goal. No matter: a minute later, Diarra is robbed in the centre and Messi scoots clear down the inside-right channel. He draws Casillas and passes an effort into the bottom left. This is a stunning performance by Barcelona. Chelsea won't be enjoying this at all.

38 min: Puyol is booked for a needless lunge on Higuain down the right. Robben swings a dangerous free kick right into the heart of the box - and Puyol clears. "So is this better than Tuesday?" wonders Julian Menz, keeping it totally deadpan.

42 min: There's a whole lot of frustrated whistling in the Bernabéu, as Barcelona stroke it around awhile, almost with contempt. This is Leeds v Southampton multiplied by Jim Baxter at Wembley, squared, on the end of a stick.

44 min: Marcelo is booked for upending Messi as he looks to complete a one-two with Eto'o, 30 yards from goal just to the right. The free kick shouldn't be dangerous, but is, Alves slapping a Roberto Carlosesque effort towards the bottom right, Casillas parrying clear.

HALF TIME: Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona. No way was that 45 minutes. No way. It felt more like 4.5. "Watching this in a bar in Seville," boasts Tim Tooher. "The Madrid fans look shocked and pretty much everyone else is chanting, Messi! Messi!. This really is Barcelona at their best. If Casillas wasn't such a phenomenal keeper they'd be braking records tonight."

Of course, the sad thing about that half of football was this one particular chance missed. Had Eto'o managed to poke in Henry's high cross on 16 minutes, the goal would have almost been a mirror image of this famous effort:

OK, maybe not quite, but you get the point.

Measured analysis: "Let's be honest, this game isn't even 'unbelievable' in the true sense of the word, never mind in the way you describe it in your MBM. It's by no way the best match I've ever seen, in fact it's nowhere near being the best game I've seen this season in La Liga or the Premier League. In fact, even bearing in mind the real meaning of the word 'unbelievable' it's just not. It's had four goals in 30-odd minutes. That doesn't, in my book, qualify for unbelievable status! What it does qualify for, however, is 'Madrid-Just-Really-Aren't-That-Good' status! And that, I dare say, was never in dispute this season, even amongst my Madrid-supporting friends!" So writes Tom "In No Way Bitter About Barcelona Being On The Verge Of Storming The League, Espanyol Fan" Coulton of Barcelona. At least he's honest.

By way of an aside, here's a Global Pandemic XI. Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding for Mac Millings:
Edwin van der SARS
Jamie Carrier
Boudeswine Zenden
Javier Facemascherano
Sneezin' Gerrard
Avian Duff
Santibody Cazorla
Quarantine Zidane
Tore Andre Flu
Gianfranco Ebola
Plague Bellamy

And we're off again! No changes at half time. Madrid set the ball rolling again, and quickly lose it. Yet again Henry skidaddles down the left, but Marcelo gets to the loose ball first - just - and the danger is snuffed out.

48 min: Iniesta dances around down the left, spins, shakes, shimmies and shuffles past Canavarro as though he wasn't there, and unleashes a whistler towards the top-right corner that only just sails wide.

49 min: Henry bumbles down the left, outdoing Ramos without even trying too hard. Robben is forced to concede a corner (which is wasted). This is becoming quite embarrassing for Real.

52 min: Robben tears past Puyol down the right at high pace. He's got the better of his man, but decides to go down the minute he reaches the box rather than keep going for goal. A terrible decision by the winger, who had half a chance to get Real back into the match.

54 min: A snaking run by Messi, during which he beats Metzelder twice, ends with a low shot towards the bottom right corner from a tight angle. He nearly forces the ball home too, but Casillas stands firm at his near post and parries clear.

56 min: GOAL!!! Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona. What a free kick by Robben. The ball's just to the right of the area, 20 yards out. He swings it into the box, and finds the head of Ramos six yards out, totally unmarked! The header's sort of flicked, sort of crashed into the top-left corner. This is on again!

58 min: NO IT'S NOT!!! Real Madrid 2-4 Barcelona. Oh this is just getting silly now. Xavi splits the Real defence apart with a delicious ball down the middle. Henry races on to it. Casillas comes out to clear but can't quite get there; the striker sidefoots round the keeper and sends the ball rolling into the empty net.

60 min: And this should have been 2-5, Eto'o breaking into the box clear on the right and rolling the ball into the centre for Messi - who somehow fails to convert from six yards! A couple of changes: Huntelaar comes on for Marcelo, while Henry won't get his hat-trick; he's replaced by Keita.

63 min: Henry has an icepack on his shin, Chelsea fans will be doubtless delighted to hear. "I'm sorry, but surely this game should end all talk about La Liga being better than the Premier League," opines Liban Saleh. "For all the Premier League's faults, a team as poor as Real Madrid have been simply wouldn't have been allowed to win 17 games out of 18."

66 min: Real are just hoofing it forward a lot now. That is poor. There goes that league! "This is a brilliant game," opines Niall Mullen. "Only the snobbish or the bitter will begrudge a game as attacking as this. It's hard to believe that chelsea will be worried though, given barca's utter ineptitude facing crosses."

68 min: Just wonderful play by Iniesta, who turns in the centre circle and leaves two men for dead. He sets his team off down the pitch, then gets involved again at the end of the move, stroking a forward pass to spring Eto'o clear in the box. The striker, who hasn't been too sharp tonight, lets the ball clank in between his legs, and fails to get a shot away. That's disgraceful when you consider the beauty of the rest of the move.

71 min: Diarra lies prone on the floor after a challenge by Keita. Xavi tears forward with the ball, five on two - and sportingly puts the ball out of play. Blimey. That's nice. "Liban Saleh may or may not be right about Real Madrid's weakness," begins Robin Hazlehurst, spoiling for a fight, "but Manchester United got shellacked by Liverpool in an approximate equivalent of this match, and they seem to have done ok at squeezing out the results this season."

72 min: Juande Ramos, the spirit of Kevin Keegan taking him over, is attempting to win this game 5-4! He takes off Ramos and puts on Van der Vaart.

73 min: That really should have been a penalty to Barcelona, as Diarra crudely bowls Iniesta over as the latter attempts to get to the byline. Seconds earlier, Messi was in acres of space, but dallied before getting his shot away. Barcelona have actually been quite wasteful in this game: they could easily have had four or five more goals.

75 min: THIS IS A TOTAL ROUT. Real Madrid 2-5 Barcelona. From the right, Messi slips the ball inside to Xavi, who has his back to goal. Xavi turns on the spot and returns the ball to Messi, who is clear in the box. He lets Casillas come out, then flicks the ball into the bottom-right corner. Is the scoring going to end here? Probably not.

78 min: Heinze floats a cross into the area from the left, but it's way too high for Huntelaar at the far post. Real are doing nothing up front. Meanwhile the thrust and parry between Lila Proof and Robin Hazelhurst, England and Spain, continues. "In context," writes Lila, "Puyol scoring the go-ahead goal against Madrid is like Gary Neville scoring the winner against Liverpool. At Anfield."

79 min: Robben runs off the pitch, without once falling over, and is replaced by Garcia.

81 min: Cannavaro goes in hard on Keita, causing a mild bout of pushing between the two sets of players. Nobody's heart is in it, though. Not really.

83 min: THIS IS AMAZING. Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona. Eto'o wheels down the right at top pace. He sends a low cross into the centre for Pique, who started the move and kept going. The defender's first effort is saved brilliantly by Casillas, but he makes it to the rebound first, just to the left of goal. Everyone's expecting the cutback, but Pique spins on the spot and tucks the ball into the net with the keeper completely wrongfooted. What a finish. This is about as grand a nightmare as Real will ever suffer.

85 min: Bojan replaces Iniesta. Pep Guardiola is grinning like a cat whose orbs taste of cream. "Ashley must be wishing he was still suspended," writes Chelsea fan Julian Menz. "Even a night home with Cheryl would be preferable. It's easy to knock Real and La Liga, but Barca have been pretty awesome. (Apologies to the purists, but my keyboard lacks the squigly bit. The little boats aren't too bad, are they?)"

87 min: That should be seven: Bojan shimmies down the right and whacks a low cross into the centre for Messi, who tries to flick it into the bottom left but succeeds only in sending his effort well wide.

FULL TIME: Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona. Well, bloody hell. The referee blows up after six seconds of injury time, perhaps feeling very sorry for the hosts. That was a superlative performance by Barca, right up there with their Cruyff-inspired 5-0 win at the Bernabeu in 1974. Barcelona go seven points clear at the top of the table, and could now even win the league next weekend. Chelsea won't have enjoyed that at all.


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