Spanish Supercopa: FC Barcelona 3, Real Madrid 2 (5-4 aggr.), Or, Last Ten Minutes? What Last Ten Minutes?By: Ade C. | August 18th, 2011
This is me, pretending that the last ten minutes of last night’s match didn’t happen. What a Clásico hangover…
And yet it all started so well. Pep decided to play Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Villa and Messi which is, not coincidentially, our strongest starting XI considering the players available and the one we played at Wembley a few short months ago against ManUtd. We heard lately that Pep had intended to play Alexis instead of Pedrito, but the Chilean injured himself during warm-up and will be sidelined for about a week.
On the side of all that is evil and unholy in this universe, Mourinho chose the same starting XI of the first leg, except that swapping Marcelo for Coentrao: Casillas, Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho, Coentrao, Di Maria, Alonso, Khedira, Özil, Benzema and CRon.
RM started with their usual intensity, and I don’t just mean tackling into people right and left: a minute in and VV already had a save under his belt and we’d conceded a CK. It looked as if we were going to have a repeat of Sunday’s no-holds-barred, hold-onto-VV-and-hope-for-the-best first half, but fortunately it didn’t take Barça quite so long this time to wake up. With Busquets back in his position, like a lanky spider at the center of its web, and Xavi and Iniesta freed to move forwards and try to communicate with Messi, we were able to actually step into RM’s half and even reach Casillas’ box on occasion.
The Messi-Iniesta-Xavi collaboration led to that lovely goal, where Messi got to show off his artistry at assisting his teammates.
Barça was not in control, though. The midfield was good and Villa and Pedrito were enthusiastic in their runs -particularly the Canarian, wanting to erase his mediocre performances from the pre-season and remind Pep that Alexis has competition-, but this at the back were still inconsistent. Our full-backs got caught out by the speed of Di María and Cristiano several times, and past the last-split-second-tackle, neither Piqué or Masche seemed to be clear on other concepts, such as ‘clearing the ball’ or ’stopping rival forwards’.
Which, of course, led to Real Madrid scoring not five minutes after Iniesta. Though the goal was given to Cristiano Ronaldo, I think it was Sergio Ramos who had the last touch after a minute of consistently poor defending from all Barça players in the vicinity. Watch the goal on high-speed, put on ‘Yakety Sax’, and you’ve got guaranteed comedy.
It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad. Barça got distracted, caved under the pressure, then jolted out of it and gave five minutes of good performances before letting the pre-season sleepiness once again conquer them… rinse, lather, and repeat. Pedrito had a good chance or two, Iniesta was fantastic, Xavi kept the tempo going, and Piqué, seeing that our defence was a lost cause in any case, and prompted by the example of his good friend Cesc, who’d recently achieved his most precious dream, decided to make true his childhood dream of being a striker. Which was just as well, because he was in the right place at the right time -and, thankfully, with the right skills- to assist Messi to score just before HT.
(Good Gods, who is that bleating around the time of the goal? How do you people watch these matches with the sound on?)
Optimism was tempered with prudence. Yes, we were winning. Yes, we were playing better than Sunday -not that it meant much. But there were still vast areas to improve and Real Madrid, though less fortunate in the face of goal than us -with the remarkably-improved Benzema back to his original state and Özil rather invisible- still had chances. 45 minutes is a long, long time to try and hold onto a lead against a team like EE.
But so far, it had been a good match. It had been lively. It had been a contest of equals. Real Madrid were more physical than Barça fans would’ve liked them to be, but we weren’t shrinking violets either, and no one had tried to kick anyone’s head off or worse. Of course, I’d have rather watched another manita, but this was exciting in its way and probably a lot better for the neutrals, if any neutrals remained interested in the Clásicos after the Four Clásicos of the Apocalypse.
Things, unfortunately, didn’t remain in this state of idyllic sportiveness. Real Madrid got more desperate to attack the more time passed; they needed to equalise, at least, and take the match to extra-time. Tempers began to flare, fouls became more than fouls, and Barça players became adept and sitting around disconsolately on the ground and flapping around the ref like chickens.
And Real Madrid scored.
Play the ‘Yakety Sax’ again, Sam. Seriously, is that a defence or a pinball machine? No one was asking for exquisite defence techniques, hoofing the ball à la Carragher would’ve perfectly sufficed. But no. No, not for us. For us, defenders are obstacles that we place in VV’s line of vision to make things more challenging for him. They’re the handicap we offer our opponents in our effort to be sportsmanlike in spite of our undisputed superiority.
So, Real Madrid had equalised. If the result stood, we’d be going to extra time. And fouls were flying like lemmings off a cliff. Not the ideal atmosphere for a debut, but Cesc Fàbregas wearing blaugrana (voluntarily) for the first time since his defection from La Masía at 16, looked equally nervous and happy when he was brought on for a Pedrito who went to have his hand bandaged on the bench.
Luckily, the former Gunner decided to start making-up for his exhorbitant price-tag by building the play that led to Messi’s second goal of the evening.
You’d think that a winner -and what a winner!- scored on the 88th minute would put a perfectly neat cap to the match. You’d think you hadn’t watched a Clásico before.
This is where I’m resolutely blocking my memories of the evening… things come in flashes… Marcelo mowing down Cesc… Marcelo being shown a red card… Özil standing from the bench to protest and stepping on Cesc, who was still on the ground clutching his thigh… Villa standing up from the bench to slap Özil away from the man he once called ‘his weakness’… the referee waving his red card above the melée like a tour-guide waving his flag ahead of a group of elderly tourist… Mourinho gouging Tito Vilanova’s eye from behind, because he is nothing but a gentleman… throwing a packet of chocolate cookies at the TV screen… darkness…
I recovered enough to see the team happily prancing about with the cup for a bit, and turned off the TV before the press conferences. My tolerance for bullshit had been far exceeded for the evening.
So, we won. From a position of inferiority -less preparation, worse fitness, etc-, we managed to scrape a win against our hated enemy. We got a wee silver cup to add to our trophy cabinet. No one died.
And yet all I’ve heard about today is ‘Mourinho, Mourinho, Mourinho’. And yet the one thing that I dreaded hearing about, but that needs to be denounced -the racist chants sang at Marcelo and Pepe during the match- has been neatly swept under the carpet. Definitely a match that left me a bittersweet taste.
Anyway, it was what it was, and now it’s over. Villa and Pinto -who got sent off during the altercation- will be suspended for a match or two once La Liga returns… whenever that might be. The club says that, player strike or not, Barça will play the Gamper Trophy this Monday, and we don’t know whether to believe them. And now I’m off to watch an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic to forget all about Mourinho, fights, racist chants and other ugly things.