Mourinho rues Ronaldo missed chances after yet another El Clasico defeat
Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho admitted Cristiano Ronaldo’s horror show in front of goal cost his side dear in the opening El Clasico of the season.
Despite going behind within 30 seconds in Saturday’s match, Barcelona ultimately outclassed their opponents and went on to win 3-1 thanks to strikes from Alexis Sanchéz, Xavi Hernández and Cesc Fábregas.
The Portuguese’s two glaring misses provided the main talking point after the game. Firstly, with the score 1-0 to Real, he skewed his shot horribly wide and then, at 2-1 down, he missed a free header bang in front of goal.
It had all looked very difference at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu when Madrid’s Karim Benzema took advantage of a mistake by Barcelona goalkeeper Víctor Valdés to put their side in front in the first minute.
By the end of the game though the famous stadium was deafeningly silent, as Madrid’s fans - who had been so confident going into the game with their team in record-breaking form - digested another loss to their greatest rivals.
Mourinho said: “Football is a game and all in games, little details and luck play an important role.The first half was very even. At 1-0 we had a chance to make it 2-0, which normally we would do, because Cristiano is a fantastic player and normally he scores.
“Then it is a different story. In the second half they got a lucky goal and then we had a chance to get back to 2-2. Then they had psychological superiority and were finally able to play the ball around as they enjoy.”
He added: “The dressing room is sad but calm. No one victory or a defeat will affect our emotional balance. We are still level on points and if we get a point next week we will be leaders for Christmas.”
While Ronaldo was trying in vain to influence the momentum of the game, gesturing at team-mates and the referee when things did not go his way, his counterpart in the Barcelona team - Lionel Messi - was again showing his worth on the biggest stage.
When Barca were struggling for rhythm in the first half it was Messi who came deep to look for the ball and drive his team-mates on. The Argentine laid on the first goal for Sánchez, worked back throughout to regain possession for this team, and was also involved in the movement which lead to Fábregas’ decisive third goal.
After the game Guardiola chose not to pass comment on the hyped Messi-Ronaldo duel and he stressed the game was only one in a long league season. He preferred to point out how proud he was of the way his players - especially goalkeeper Víctor Valdés - had responded to going a goal down away to their biggest rivals.
“I admire the players’ fortitude,” said Guardiola. “They have a lot of experience, both physically and mentally, and they knew how to move the game forward.
"Our players like to play and attack. The image of our team is that Victor Valdes, after their goal, continued to pass the ball. I would rather lose the ball playing from behind and maintain the playing style of building up play from the back, and we were able to do it.
"I am delighted with the performance,” Guardiola said. “Madrid will recover. To win here, you have to play a very good game and we have done that. But there is still much to do and Madrid will again be the leader if they beat Sevilla. There are no champions in December.”
Guardiola also voiced confidence in Valdes, who gave the ball away for the opening goal and looked shaky in the early going before making some crucial saves later on.
“Winning here is always worthwhile and challenging, and you can see that in the performance of Valdes, who after conceding early has not taken another hit,” he said.
“Madrid continues to be our strongest opponent,” he said. “This loss will not sink their morale. They are professionals and very good players. There is a lot of Liga still to be played.”