It wasn’t a blowout like Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero predicted,but he would have won picking a straight winner. Whenever I talk to my non-fútbol friends, I can never seem to tell them that stats in the game I love lie. The one that lies the most is possession. Many people see a stat like possession that Barca dominated 73-27 at one point and would have thought Zapatero should step down and go into the booking industry. Hell, less headaches and more money (wink, wink).
But that was far from that case as Barcelona held the ball and Real Madrid did not believe the apocalyptic hype. They did not believe in the floods that were about to come in to the Nou Camp and wash them away. They stood toe-to-toe against the Four Horsemen and they were able to deny The Beast (Eto’o) but eventually it would be too much. That first-half fury was not enough to break the lockpad that the Madrid defense. Part of their tactic was to pummel Lionel Messi and pack the middle of the Madrid defensive zone.
Madrid had the best opportunity in the first half when Royston Drenthe broke away on a one-on-one but would be denied by a brilliant Victor Valdés. The Barcelona goalkeeper was sharp on the few ocassions they needed him. They would ask of him once again when one of the Madrid canterano, Palanca made his debut. His big opportunity came when he came in for the injured Wesley Sneijder in the first half and he turned out to be one of the bright spots of the madridistas on Saturday night.
It was a game that had its moments. Like any rivalry of this magnitude, there was going to be an ebb and flow. The problem for Barcelona was that they were not able to seal the deal early. Yes, the celebration started days ago as people like Zapatero mentioned that the blaugrana “would win 5-1″. There were lots of historically lopsided results being thrown all over the place, which were starting to become reality in the eyes of the culé faithful.
So any stats and approaches to the Iker Casillas’ goal were of no consolation to them during the first 82 minutes of the Spanish Derby. Pressure continued to mount, but there were no true threats to Iker Casillas’ goal, for well over 70 minutes. At that stage of the game, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Many people were looking at remaining nine points ahead of their hated rivals. If there was a difference maker it was Sergi Busquets. His arrival onto the pitch for Eidur Gudjohnsen who was lost on the pitch. “Woody” was just two gears slower than the pace of the game. It was evident as Barcelona did not have the capability to fully function in his new role in the midfield. Gudjohnsen is a pure nine. That was why the newly-signed Busquets made the biggest splash. A few minutes after coming, Busquets was tackled in the box by Michel Salgado and Medina Cantalejo did not hesitate to call a penalty kick.
The Nou Camp went wild, but unfortunately Samuel Eto’o could not capitalize on the opportunity as he opened up his hips wide and the kick was not aimed to his right post. This made Casillas the hero once again. A few minutes later Eto’o would shoot again and “San Iker” would deny him and Lionel Messi on the ensuing rebound.
The defense would last for another eight minutes when Xavi’s corner would be attacked by Puyol like a rabid dog. He beat three Madrid defenders and put the ball down for Eto’o, who tapped the ball passed Casillas passed the goal line before Palanca could reject setting the well over 110,000 Barcelona fans into a frenzy in the rainy Catalan night. For the Cameroonian international it was his first goal in three years against his former team. His last goal against Madrid on November 19, 2005 when Barca won 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabéu. Obviously most people do not remember that goal, just the other two by Ronaldinho. It was his 93rd goal in 122 matches for the blaugrana, and he is quickly rising in the ranks of the Barcelona goalscorers as he surpassed Estanislao Basora for ninth place on the club’s all-time list with 113 goals; four away from Hristo Stoichkov.
Player of the Game- Carles Puyol. There were many that I could have picked from, but when it was all said and done it was “Captain Titan” that everyone had to consider. Without him the goal would have never existed. The way he attacked the ball from the penalty spot and the elevation he had on his jump were epic. It is an assist that is part of his legacy because he always wants it more. For that type of effort, Eto’o should buy him a lap dance.
Puyol was Puyol in the back. Barcelona 2-0 Real Madrid
Barcelona 2-0 Real Madrid BAR- Eto’o (83′), Messi (90′+2′)
Valencia 2-1 Espanyol