Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The clasico foursome

Four matches between the archrivals of Real Madrid and Barcelona have ended. The first one, the league match (which I did not see because I was barbecuing with friends in Richmond, California), ended 1-1, and with 8-point difference, the league is quite certain to end in Barcelona for the third season in a row.
The final of the Copa del Rey was a 1-0 Real Madrid victory after extra time (I half-watched the match in a bar in Haights, in San Francisco, California). Finally Real Madrid won a title, and to this one must add that it is a title that has eluded them for many years (it was for instance the only title the splendid goalkeeper Iker Casillas had never won). It was in fact a well-deserved victory, and must have given the merengues confidence before the Champions League semifinals, that the entire world was awaiting eagerly.
I watched the first match after (I was at the bottom of the Grand Canyon when it took place). It was a disappointment of a Real Madrid team that did not seem to have confidence after their Copa del Rey victory, too much girly behaviour by the Barca players, and a referee that was good, but whose one mistake proved crucial: Pepe's expulsion. Barcelona won 0-2 in Madrid and the most memorable moment of this match was Lionel Messi's splendid second goal, although many will remember Mourinho's sour face.
Mourinho is surely a provocateur. As if these matches were not always surrounded by tension, he is only too happy to throw gasoline into the fire. In my view, it is part of the football entertainment today, but I am not sure it helps the players; there is simply too much spark in some of the players.
Real Madrid started the second match very well (this one, I watched at home), but as soon as Barcelona gets going with their passing game, the balloon runs out of air. It is characteristic for both the CL matches how superior Barcelona was in possession and in passing, and in spite of the good fight the Madrid side put up, the score was only 0-0 at halftime because of some splendid saves by the world's best goalkeeper, Iker Casillas. Still, 1-1 was enough for Barcelona, who may feel that they got a double revenge: against their archrivals whom they had never eliminated from a European semifinal, and against José Mourinho, who has been provoking them so much, besides coaching Inter when the Italian side eliminated Barcelona in last season's CL.

This foursome will surely go into history, as in a few weeks the ultimate rivalry of these two sides was put to the test. However, it further underlines the enormous problem this is for the "Scottish" Spanish league: it is effectively a two-team league. The rest of the sides are only in it for the spoils of the big ones (both sport-wise and economically). The Spanish league is a bore and it will continue to be, except when these two sides meet, as much as any football fan should love to see them play.

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