It may seem redundant for me to begin by writing about all the hype and excitement that surrounds a “Clasico” match-up between La Liga powerhouses; FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Regardless if an individual follows this “two-team league”, as most consider it to be…no one can deny that watching some of the best players fight it out is never a dull day.
This first round quarterfinal Copa Del Rey match was no different; Guardiola and the squad headed to Santiago Bernabeu fully aware that it would be no easy feat. This game would be a rematch of last season’s final; which happened to be the only one Madrid won. Out of the last eight times the two teams had met, Barcelona was victorious in four of those quests, while the remaining three ended in draws.
To many, seeing Pinto replace Valdes in the net during such an important game seemed a dangerous gamble, but as Guardiola stated in yesterday’s press conference; “I don’t doubt him. He doesn’t participate as much but I don’t believe anyone doubts him.”
Di Maria would be absent for Real Madrid, but let’s face it, they do have superstar striker, Ronaldo. From the minute the whistle blew, both teams were on the attack. Barcelona may have dominated the possession stats during the first ten minutes, but it was Ronaldo that broke away in the 11th to find the net, leaving Pinto helpless. Social networks were sent into a frenzy; fans from both sides in disbelief, not only at the fact that Real Madrid had taken the lead, but jokes about Pinto’s outdated ponytail. The rest of the first half saw Barcelona with numerous opportunities and countless tries from Iniesta, Messi and Fabregas, but Real Madrid’s defense was not ready to let go of their lead.
The game changer came in the second half, in the 49th minute, when Puyol’s header found the back of the net; the moment they equalized is also the moment that the game became a dirty one. Real Madrid seemed like the face of frustration, and it could be seen all over the field with shoving and tackles all over, but it would be Pepe’s actions in the 67th that would eventually push Barcelona to find that second goal. Messi and Pepe had both fallen during a tackle, and as Pepe emerged, he decided to intentionally step on Messi’s hand. After all, this is a player that is known for his violent plays. As Barcelona’s playmaker, it is no surprise that his teammates were all enraged that Pepe had not received a yellow card for his actions, as the referee had not seen the incident, but in true Barcelona style, the incident just pushed them towards the victory, which would come from Abidal in the 77th, assisted by Messi.
It just so happened to be Guardiola’s birthday and surely he could not have asked for a greater gift than a victory at the Bernabeu, placing Barcelona in a comfortable position prior to the second leg that is to be played next Wednesday at the Nou Camp.
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