Real Madrid 1-2 Barcelona: More pain in Spain for Jose Mourinho
Barcelona once again came from behind to beat Real Madrid in a tense Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg at the Bernabéu last night, thwarting the plans of José Mourinho.
Mourinho sent out a team to frustrate Barca and an early Cristiano Ronaldo goal seemed to justify the decision, however Barca slowly but surely worked their way into the game, with Carlos Puyol equalising with a header from a corner just after half-time and a late Eric Abidal strike breaking Madrid hearts once more.
Guardiola as expected named his first choice side but with reserve keeper José Pinto in goal. Mourinho gambled in giving Ricardo Carvalho a first game since September at centre-half and Hamit Altintop a very rare appearance at right-back. Such a line-up was obviously intended with pace and power in mind. Alonso was sitting deep in midfield, with Pepe and Lass Diarra chasing Barca’s ball-players, and Madrid looking to hit on the break.
The strategy worked perfectly for the first goal. A Barca move broke down and Karim Benzema hit a superb pass down the left to send Ronaldo motoring away behind Daniel Alves. His shot was low and hard, but Pinto might have saved it. Just as in the 3-1 in December in the league, Madrid had drawn first blood.
If Mourinho’s men had no plan of flying forward before, they were more than happy to bunker down now. There was a first scare when a Cesc Fábregas chipped cross was back headed by Alexis Sanchez over Casillas but onto the crossbar. There was also a yellow for Pepe for a late challenge on Sergio Busquets, and a card for Gerard Piqué for use of the arm.
Generally though, the game was calmly taking place in front of the Madrid back-four, with the Madrid crowd clapping appreciatively when Ronaldo regained possession from Alves. Barca continued to pass the ball around, probing for weaknesses, and they eventually located one down the right-side of Madrid’s defence, where Andrés Iniesta was up against Altintop.
Iniesta twice found space inside the area, but his first near post shot was saved by Iker Casillas and his second chance was ruined by a heavy first touch. In between Messi had got free in the same position, and Casillas had made another similarly excellent save. A borderline linesman flag then pulled Alexis back, when the Chilean was clean through.
Barca began to work their triangles again. Fabregas and Iniesta played a neat one-two, but Ramos got across just in time to block latters’ shot. Alexis twice got in down the right, but his first cross was ahead of Iniesta and the second time Ramos did well again to snuff the danger out.
Madrid had the clearest chance though, with Pinto repaying Guardiola’s faith with a good stop from Benzema’s close-range header. Busquets then flashed a header over as Barca threatened at another set-piece.
Their perseverence would eventually pay off though. Captain fantastic Puyol got across his marker, Pepe, to power a diving header into the far corner and send the pocket of Barca fans high in the heavens of the Bernabeu into raptures.
Barca's little magician Messi then showed his class, scooping a delicious ball over Madrid’s offside trap, setting left-back Abidal clear to knock the ball past a despairing Casillas and secure yet another El Clasico victory for the Catalan side.