The Superclasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona was played yesterday with billions of eyes tuning in to see the biggest league game of the season. Luckily, for those of us who took those two hours out of our lives to witness the match that took place at Camp Nou, we were rewarded with a magical display of what this sport is all about.
The stakes couldn’t be much higher on this rainy April night in Barcelona, Spain. All pressure relied heavily on Real Madrid, who came into the match losing grip at the top of the league with just 4 points ahead of their opponent in the league and with the knowledge of having lost a majority of these head-to-head match-ups in recent seasons. On the other end, a team that was beginning to receive the tag of possible “greatest team of all time” along with lining up who’s supposed to be in the running for the best player of all time in Lionel Messi, had cut a long-standing double digit deficit for first place in La Liga to the point where a win would bring them within a point from the top of the table.
The second installment of the Superclasico in the 2011-’12 season of La Liga sure did not disappoint. Well, at least not the Real Madrid faithful or the neutral fans who watched the game. Barcelona fans, on the other hand, saw their team relentlessly try to overcome a side that remembered how to defend and (mostly) put aside the sort of rash play that was detrimental in games before. There were some sparks of that magic that fans became accustomed to see of the blaugrana. But, ultimately, that tiki taka sort of play never arrived. Lionel Messi, the supposed greatest player in the world, was a complete non-factor. He certainly didn’t play like someone who was awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or these last two seasons. The midfield power duo of Xavi-Iniesta did not function like a well-oiled machine. Dani Alves did not cause havoc down the flank. And Pep’s starting lineup did not feature major players like Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Pique and Alexis Sanchez (who came on late in the 2nd half to score his side’s only goal).
But it wasn’t all of Barcelona’s fault that they lost. Los Merengues played an excellent game themselves. Madrid’s midfield and back line successfully trounced Barcelona’s attacks with Arbeloa (mostly) preventing the youngster, Tello, from using his speed to the best of his ability, Pepe played a smart, clean game, and Coentrão gave an excellent defensive display while making everyone stop wondering why Marcelo was left in the bench. The man of the hour was Cristiano Ronaldo; the man with the game-winning goal played exquisitely that more than justified his “quiet” celebration aimed his critics. His goal gave his team the 3 points for the match, extending their lead over Barcelona to 7 points and on a personal note, CR7 became the sole leader in the race for the Pichichi title.
With this win, Real Madrid are eyeing a league title for the first time in 4 years, and their first league title under Mourinho. This potential title may also provide the squad the momentum they need for their semi-final Champions League match at home in the Bernabeu against Bayern Munich, in which they’re down 2-1 but with the crucial away goal advantage. Come Wednesday night, another favorable result would see them reach the tournament’s final.
Barcelona’s league title hopes are dwindling, while Real Madrid looks stronger than ever. The team that’s supposed to be the greatest team ever is showing less and less signs of that, and the team that was playing second fiddle to them for a long time may very well be the new king of Spanish football.