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Iconic el Clasicos: Ronaldinho bewitches Santiago Bernabeu

Barcelona's Ronaldinho celebrates goal against Real Madrid during Spanish first division soccer match in Madrid

Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona, Nov. 19 2005

We’ve all seen how tough it can be to appease the crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Real Madrid supporters have immaculately high standards for their own players and should they fall short of them, regardless of the opposition, they’ll make their feelings unashamedly clear.

So you can imagine just how special a performance needs to be for the spectators to shift focus from their own onto one of the opposition’s star performers, even more so when it’s a man donning the colors of Barcelona. But that’s exactly what Ronaldinho did as he bewitched the watching Madridistas in an exemplary Blaugrana display.

The match was a vital contest as these two teams were in the midst of an engrossing title battle. Barcelona held a narrow one-point over Real in the title race, but the supporters packed into the Santiago Bernabeu that evening were desperate for their own side to put on a show and haul themselves back into leading contention for the title.

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What actually transpired was a display of ruthless domination from Barcelona. While the possession statistics were split down the middle, the Catalonians had 20 shots to Real’s five, including seven on target and three that found the back of the net.

The first came from Samuel Eto’o, a player who was on the Los Blancos books as a teenager but rarely got a chance to show what he could do. But years on from when Real let the Cameroonian walk out the door, he was a thoroughbred goalscorer in the colors of their great rivals and when he was played in by a fresh faced Lionel Messi, he made no mistake with a forensic finish.

From that point on, Ronaldinho took over. He led the Madrid back-four a merry dance with his patented flamboyance, darting into pockets of space to pick the ball up before dazzling opponents on the half-turn and surging towards goal. It was exactly this type of instance that saw Ronaldinho put Barcelona two goals to the good on the hour mark.

The Brazilian sashayed away from Sergio Ramos and Ivan Helguera in a mesmerizing run from the left wing before wrong footing Iker Casillas with a disguised shot at the near post. Remarkably, he repeated the trick with time ticking down in the game, again waltzing away from some flailing Madrid defenders, but this time opening up his body and finishing into the far corner.

The brace capped off a masterclass performance from a man who was establishing himself as the best in the world and instead of the Madridistas turning on the abject efforts of their own players as Barcelona celebrated, they rose almost in unanimity to applaud this magnificent footballer.

In the aftermath, Ronaldinho was naturally delighted, per John Edwards of the Mail Online:

It was a perfect game for us, and I will never forget it, because it is so rare to hear applause from the opposition fans when you score against them.

It is unusual at any time, let alone for a Barca player at the home of Real Madrid.

It was a display that naturally commands enormous significance because of the symbolism conjured, but in Barcelona’s season it was an imperative triumph. Real never really recovered from that loss as they toiled in the Spanish top flight, eventually finishing 12 points behind their great rivals in the title race.

With Ronaldinho spearheading their charge, Barca were immaculate from this point on. As aforementioned, they went on to win the league at a canter before claiming the club’s second ever European Cup in Paris, 14 years on from their maiden triumph in Paris.

But despite the silverware they picked up that campaign, the Brazilian’s slaloming dribbling and the subsequent acclaim of the Bernabeu crowd is the moment most synonymous with that generation of fine Blaugrana players.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball


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