Monday, April 25, 2011

Four Clasicos in 18 Days! Game 2 Considerations

I watched the Copa del Rey final in the Phoenix Landing in Central Square. Good venue to watch games as it is generally full of fans. Inside it seemed the Madrid supporters outnumbered the Barca supporters. Still, with one hundred or so people crowded into the place, the atmosphere was good. Perhaps twenty to twenty-five were there for the Arsenal vs. Tottenham game going on at roughly the same time.

Madrid definitely held the upper hand in the first period. Mourinho put Pepe, the big Portuguese center half, in the midfield to lock Messi down and generally harangue Barca's midfielders. It was an effective tactic. Madrid looked sharp and worked extra hard to close Barca down whenever we got the ball. As is typical with a Mourinho side, there were a lot of rough challenges.

Barca played a much better second period. They kept the ball in Madrid's half and created several great chances, only to be denied repeatedly by Casillas and the Madrid defense. The second half ended tied at nil-nil. Pep made some attacking changes. Alfellay came on; so did Keita. Madrid's changes happened earlier.

At the start of extra time, the momentum shifted back to Madrid. Their goal in the first half of extra time was followed by intelligent defending, clever stall tactics, and a general greater desire to maintain the trophy that was Barca put forth.

I am not bitter that Madrid won. Ronaldo scored an impressive goal. Di Maria put in a great cross after beating Alves. Ronaldo out jumped Adriano to hit a picture perfect cabezazo into the corner of the net.

It all sets up a very tense Champions League semi-final. Madrid look supremely confident going into this first leg at the Bernabeu. Barca is missing Iniesta, Abidal, Maxwell and Adriano. Puyol is arguably not 100% fit -- our bench looks thin. Still, we will give them a good game. Visca el Barca!

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