Many who don’t follow the beautiful game intensely would still have made time to catch a game of this magnitude with two teams as highly rated and with such cherished histories as Real Madrid and Barcelona. This game should have been a spectacle not only for the hard core fans of both sides but also for the lovers of football around the world and even for the casual observers. Instead we witnessed a spectacular disaster and innumerable examples of everything that is wrong with the game.
In fairness, Barcelona didn’t do much wrong except for the awful playacting by Pedro, Busquets, and Alves. I thought Guardiola learnt from his past mistakes and played a very safe game tactically. His teams have struggled in big away games when they have tried to attack. Pep kept 6-7 men in his own half and they just knocked the ball around inviting Real to come at them. A defensive but prudent approach that paid dividends at the end.
Mourinho, probably inspired by Wenger’s tactics of attacking Barca late in the game, kept his players back as the game meandered along. The first half was a pedestrian performance from both teams not only in terms of the speed of the game but also the quality of football. It’s hard to recall a single moment where the technique or skills of the players stood out. The highlights package during the breather most likely contained some dives, playacting, and rash fouls.
It can also be said that Guardiola outfoxed Mourinho by eliminating counter-attacking opportunities. One could also say the Real manager was extremely one dimensional and didn’t have a plan B when his team failed to get counter-attacks going!!
As far as two –legged ties go, I believe the onus is always on the home side to show some initiative. The Dark Lord of Anti-football failed miserably and his rough tactics backfired when his pit bull Pepe was sent off for an over the top, studs-up challenge. Alves’ antics were shameful but it’s hard to argue against the card. Real got away with a lot of rough play in the Copa Del Rey final and one would think it had to come back and haunt them at some time.
I wonder what the Winner Worshipers and Glory Hunting Apologists have to say about Mourinho now. Of course, the second leg is still to come but it will take more than the biggest upset in the history of the game if this Real manager is to win by two goals or more at the Camp Nou.
To my mind, the managers at the big clubs have a responsibility not only to their fans and club but also to the game in general. They cannot send such a talented bunch of players out with such abominable tactics. I criticized Mourinho when he won with Inter and I am going to criticize him now when he flops at Real. People like the Dark Lord set a horrible example for other managers and they tarnish the image of the game. Imagine if someone who doesn’t watch the football is introduced to the sport through such a game after all the hype and hoopla! Will that person ever watch football again!? Mourinho and his ilk might win some trophies and get short-term gratification for glory hunters or billionaires with new toys, but they hurt a lot of people who love the game.
It will be interesting to see whether the bosses at Real, renowned for their lack of patience with the managers, keep the Dark Lord in charge for the next season. Surely no one now fails to understand why they came to Wenger, a manager who hasn’t won a trophy for six years, before they went to Jose. Earlier this season I did an article saying Mourinho was jealous of Arsene and such games show why.
Thankfully, Messi produced a moment of magic that will stay in the memories of football lovers for a long, long time.
The events after the sending off also put into perspective Arsenal’s performance against Barcelona. Way too many fans lost the plot after that game as the bile and hatred directed towards the manager and some players reached new heights. Can someone tell me why Real didn’t have any leaders on the pitch? Where was the winning mentality? Why did they crumble after going down to ten men? Where was the commanding voice that can supposedly be bought by buying proven players? Barcelona didn’t really threaten the Madrid goal when it was 11-v-11 so why did the red card change the game so much?
Earlier I had mentioned that Arsenal were really unlucky to draw Barca in the Champions League, undoubtedly the best team in the world at the moment. If it had been Bayern, Schalke, or Real, the Gunners would have had a great chance of going through. If you pause and think about it, Arsenal are probably in the top four or five teams in the world right now. Not the best, certainly a lot to improve on, but really far from being a disgraceful shambles as many flippant fans like to believe.
To end on a lighter note, just imagine the Tiny Totts (disdainfully dismantled by Real) taking on Barca. Now that would be a spectacle.