ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - FC Barcelona
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Posted by Isaiah Cambron on 12/12/2011

At the end, when Fernández Borbolán blew the final whistle, things were put right again. Or so we told ourselves, hoarse and happy, the victors of another Clásico. There were no Madrid fans waiting to challenge Barça’s win as a scandalous refereeing debacle or indictment of the entire European footballing system. In fact, there was no one, at least no one in the bar this writer was in, who even suggested that the match was anything other than a wonderful display and a just scoreline.

And it was certainly both. Yes Madrid had clear chances, but scuffed their lines. Barça too scuffed some lines, however, and then rode its talent to the finish line while Madrid seemed to collapse in slow motion as the exertion of their first 70 minutes took its toll. The winner was the correct one on the night and now the league is fully in play again, with Barça provisionally top. The prevailing mood, however, suggests that Barça will overcome a three point deficit when the squad returns from the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.

There is nothing assured in this world and cules would be wise to remember there are still 66 points in play over the coming months, but they should also rejoice in the beauty and effectiveness of this “Pep Team,” of this wonderful generation of players that is making such an impact on a global level. 1-3 may not have the resonance of 5-0 or even 2-6, but the impact of this latest result may turn out to be as important to the leagues in which those other, more famous, scorelines took place.

What’s more, whatever Mourinho has to say on the matter, luck had little to do with it. He’s right that there is always a bit of luck in sports, but Dani Alves is certainly correct when he stated in a press conference that “We beat them because we were better.” The statistics suggest as much, if that’s your preferred method of understanding games: 62% possession, 7 shots on target to 5, only 13 fouls committed to Madrid’s 22. To speak of luck would entice most sane humans to point out Benzema’s goal involved a good deal of “luck” as well.

It wasn’t all one-sided. There was danger, of course, and at 1-0, Cristiano Ronaldo had the chance to put the merengues up two. Yet only minutes after Karim Benzema’s goal, Iker Casillas had put out a hand and deflected a sure Lionel Messi goal at the very last instant. That had, of course, come from a slip in defence by Sergio Ramos, so it would have been a “lucky” goal anyway. The miss of the match and easily Madrid’s best manufactured chance was Ronaldo’s headed effort that went wide of the goal when it should have easily beaten Valdes. Only a couple of minutes later, Fabregas scored Barça’s third and then Xavi, the author of the second goal through a wicked deflection off Marcelo, missed an open header that should have made it 4.

That’s the thing: most teams miss chances over the course of a match. Efficiency is often key to winning big matches and failing to convert your chances can see you caught in the end. Just ask Chelsea in 2009. Yet class can also tell and it did on Saturday night. Barcelona started a somewhat predictable line-up and despite slipping into a deficit within 30 seconds of the kickoff, was able to wrest control of the match. Quickly enough, everything seemed to fall into the old pattern of Barça dominating and Madrid chasing, whatever the scoreboard said.

If talent rises to the top, then it was Andres Iniesta who rode the upward momentum the most. For this writer, he was the man of the match without a second thought. He exerted more and more control over the match, his creativity coming to the fore and forcing Madrid to leave more and more space in the back in order to shut him down. He rainbowed Sami Khedira and juked the entire back line before forcing a good kick save from Casillas. The rings he ran around several of the players must have left stains they were so nasty. Guardiola once said that Xavi would retire him, but that Iniesta would retire them both; that he said that when Iniesta was 14 shows the eye for talent Pep has, but it also speaks to the immense quality that Don Andres brings to the squad.

Lost in the whole game was a little Argentine named Lionel Messi, who quietly had another good match, but didn’t score so everyone thinks he wasn’t on song. He got the assist on Sánchez’s goal and ran the break that led to Cesc’s goal (though the whole move was started by Cesc himself). Sánchez too was bigger than his goal, creating confusion in Madrid’s back line and disrupting their counterattacks. By the end of the match, Dani Alves was so advanced that his average position ended at midfield alongside Xavi and Cesc.

The team is already in Japan, having celebrated their victory by hopping a 13 hour flight to Tokyo. On Thursday comes the semi-final of the Club World Cup against Qatari club Al-Sadd, so the team has no time to rest on its laurels. There’s always more to be won under Guardiola and this writer certainly can’t wait to see those matches. For now, though, it’s time to watch the Clásico’s highlights yet again.

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Posted by young on 12/12/2011

as i've read someone's comment

Posted by farii on 12/13/2011

I thought puyol was my man of match though

Posted by d on 12/13/2011

It's a pretty low blow to bring up the Barca / Chelski game of 2009 considering the blatant errors on the part of the referees.I'd say that your team was pretty lucky not to have conceded at least 1 penalty in that game. Perhaps what you meant was, " Barca should have taken THEIR chances and not fallen back on the old trusty 12th man".

Posted by Juan on 12/13/2011

I think what the author meant was that Chelsea (in both legs) sat back and defended and tried to rely too heavily on one or two chances to get them through, despite the talent they had in their squad. THEY relied on the ref and on the few chances that they didn't convert (except for the one, some might say lucky, goal) .
In the end, when you have a team that's as fast and powerful as Chelsea was in 2009, and all you do is park the bus and rely on a few chances, you're gonna get bitten.

Posted by C on 12/13/2011

Messi will be injured in asia that i'm sure of.

Posted by Tp from Lagos on 12/14/2011

Why do people show must envy in futball. We should not fail to understand that messi is the best and we should all wish him well. If U say messi will be injured in asia. No problems but know that cR7 Will be dead before messi comes back. If U all accept that .

Posted by @TP on 12/14/2011

That was a low blow. The previous comment made a horrible insulting remark towards your favorite player. That does not mean that he was a Madrid fan, nor a CR7 lover. For all we know, he could be a Brazilian fan mocking Messi for his Argentinian background. Learn to sit back and let haters say what they want. You cannot shut their mouths for them, so just let it go. Messi won't get injured by a few words by a hater, why should you? Don't stoop to their level, or else you just spread hatred all around.

Posted by jedi on 12/14/2011

why all the comments as we all know messi is the best player on earth at the moment and currently the leading player of this years best player award...that is undisputed ,what you have to understand is baca played a collective team game as compared to madrid who played an individual game full of selfishness that makes barca one of the best team in the world. the fact is barca taught madrid a lesson that barca has improved over the years as compared to some 10-15 years ago where we normally loose to madrid,,,..long live barca long live pep and long live messi,xavi,iniesta,puyol,pique and cesc

Posted by Roy on 12/16/2011

Of course you need a little bit of luck to win a game. This is also the case in football. Still, I believe luck can enforced by the way you play the game. And I believe that is what Barca Has done in the ultimate Classico.
Despite all the critics, Barca is for this moment the best. Do not forget that Barca, and thanks to all the players, has made people enjoys the game at the fullest

Posted by Ziggy on 12/17/2011

That really captures the spirit of it. Thanks for potsing.

Posted by Ryan on 12/17/2011

A whole article praising a victory and not a word on Puyol? You didn't hear the name "Ronaldo" very much in this game and its because the long haired 33 year old had Cristiano under his thumb.

Cesc and Andres did well, especially the latter, but Puyol was the man of the match.

Posted by selassie on 12/21/2011

u guys keep chatting about how the referee made wrong calls against chelsea in the 2009 semifinal at stamford bridge, buh u guys never ever mention d fact that in that same match , abidal was given a red card 4 nothing-- giving chelsea a penalty would havee been unfair to barcelona......have u considered that?

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Francesc Tomas Hola! I am Francesc Tomas. Barcelona is my passion and home-town team. I consider myself lucky to have regularly attended matches at the Camp Nou since the early 1980s. My cousin played for the Barça youth academy, sharing the team with Don Andres Iniesta, which gave me a clear inside view of how our club works behind the scenes. I am also the founder, editor and columnist at

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