Sunday, 11 December 2011

Magical Messi Makes All The Difference For Barca

Special: Lionel Messi skips past Pepe and Xabi Alonso
Lionel Messi displayed a clinical show of attacking football to help Barcelona overcome a 1-0 deficit to beat fierce rivals Real Madrid 3-1 at the Bernabeu last night.

With Christmas fast approaching, Real were presented with a sackful of chances to gift them a huge three points in the race for the title.

However they were left to suffer from poorly executed opportunities, and it was left to the magical touch of Messi to capitalise on Madrid’s demise.

Before the game, pundits were predicting Madrid to finally overhaul Barca’s dominance in the El Classico.

Although Madrid surprising took the lead through Karim Benzema with 23 seconds played, the league leaders were no match for what was an unstoppable performance from the Catalan’s midfield maestros.

The match build-up was mainly structured around the football superstars that are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and yet again one player prevailed on the big stage.

It took 5 minutes for the world footballer of the year to turn El Classico on its head. Within 4 minutes of Benzema’s opener; Messi took advantage of a Sergio Ramos slip before gliding the ball past two tackles and forcing a great save from Casillas.

Messi’s inspired presence on the game got its first reward, when yet again he unveiled a combination of divine ball control and remarkable decision making to slot a marvellous through ball to Sanchez who complimented the assist with a great finish.

The Argentine narrowly avoided a red card come the half time whistle. A yellow card for dissent was shortly followed by a trip on Alonso. The referee looked certain to pull out an inevitable second yellow, but quickly pulling away from the pocket when realising that the man who conceded the foul was the greatest player on the planet.

If Messi was sent off, then we would have been looking at completely different story.

With Fabregas taking a centre forward role in the second half, Sanchez and Messi provided the former Arsenal skipper with exceptional pace and precision crossing down the flanks.

Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta formed the three in midfield, and they supplied the wings with great passing whilst also balancing the threat of taking long range shots against Iker Casillas.

Xavi then struck the jackpot when his shot from 25 yards took a freak deflection off of Marchelo, wrong footing Casillas who scrambled to crawl the ball away but to no prevail.

Real Madrid had a number of chances to bring the game back to honours even, the pick of the bunch coming from an unmarked Ronaldo header which unbelievably failed to hit the target.

The game was then sealed by exhibition counter attacking football from the Spanish champions, as an exceptional run by full back Daniel Alves was followed with a great in-swinging ball to Fabregas who was there at the back stick to head home the sucker punch goal.

Madrid remain favourites to take the La Liga crown as they still acquire a game in hand, however Barca still have the attacking power to spoil Real’s title surge.

Xavi: We Were Far More Superior To Real Madrid

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Barcelona midfielder Xavi believes that his side were too strong for Read Madrid at the Berbabeu last night.

Xavi, who has been with the Catalonian side since the age of 11, scored one of three goals that insured Barca took all three points to bring them level with Real Madrid at the summit of the La Liga table.

Real Madrid took the lead 23 seconds into the game when Karim Benzema tapped in from close range, but three goals by Alexis Sanchez, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas sealed the victory on what was a dramatic evening in Madrid.

A much needed result for the reigning champions who have only taken 3 wins from seven away games this season, and Xavi believes that Madrid were no match for the visitors.

“We were very superior to Real Madrid today.”

"We wanted to be brave here. We know that you cannot win otherwise and the team played a great match in every department. We are far superior to Real Madrid."

The 31 year old also praised keeper Victor Valdes, who gifted the Spanish league leaders a goal when a misplaced pass to Daniel Alves fell to the feet of Karim Benzema who pounced in from close range.

“Victor Valdes has been very brave in spite of the initial error and was able to recover and play very well.”

"I am very happy about everything, for the victory, and the most important thing is that collectively we played a great game and we were very superior."

However his boss Pep Guardiola quickly brought his side back down to earth, and reiterated that Madrid are still favourites to take the crown despite yet another El Classico defeat to Barcelona.

“I am delighted with the performance [but] 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 leaders if they beat Sevilla.”

“There are no champions in December.”

Real Madrid missed a hatful of glorious chances, including an unmarked Ronaldo header that could have given Real a much needed equaliser.

After the game, Jose Mourinho expressed the significance of Ronaldo’s glaring miss from 10 yards out.

“When it was 1-0 we could have easily gone 2-0 up and maybe under normal circumstances, Cristiano [Ronaldo] put it wide.”

There was a dramatic end to the first half when Lionel Messi, who had been booked earlier on in the game for dissent, tripped Alonso. The referee looked to pull out the red card that would of saw the Argentine sent off, before quickly pulling away from his pocket when seeing the guilty face of Messi.

With the game evenly balanced, Mourinho believes that the referee could have been more lenient towards his side and sent off the Barca talisman.

“I thought Messi could have been sent off, but until I see it again I won’t say more in case I’m wrong.”

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Match Report: Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona

cesc fabregas xavi real madrid v barcelona

A rampant second half display by reigning La Liga champions Barcelona beat league leaders Real Madrid 3-1 on an entertaining evening at the Bernabeu.

Three goals by Sanchez, Xavi and Fabregas was more than enough to end Real Madrid’s 10 league victory streak, and cut the deficit down to equal terms at the top of the La Liga table.

A close range goal by Benzema was cancelled out by a Sanchez strike close to half time. With a deflected strike by Xavi straight after half time, a diving header by Cesc Fabregas sealed the Catalonian’s third away victory in seven games.

Real Madrid got off to the perfect start, after Barca keeper Victor Valde’s attempted pass to Eric Abidal fell to the feet of Di Maria whose shot was blocked, falling perfectly to Ozil whose volley was deflected into the path of Karim Benzema who poked home from close range.

Ronaldo then squandered the chance to put the league leader further ahead when a Benzema run down the left wing was squared to the Madrid talisman who selfishly shot wide instead of setting up Di Maria who was clear on goal.

Lionel Messi started to make his way into the game and a great run down the right flank forced a great save by stopper Iker Casillas. Barca looked the more likely to force the equaliser.

With the game closing in on half time, Barcelona got their reward. Lionel Messi capatalised on a Sergio Ramos slip, gliding the ball past two Madrid tackles and slotting a through ball to Sanchez who placed the ball past Casillas to give the Chilean his 5th goal of the season.

Shortly after the equaliser, Messi was punished with a yellow card after arguing with the referee over a Pepe foul on Sanchez. With the first half closing in, the Argentine could have easily been sent for an early shower, after a late challenge on Xabi Alonso caused the referee to reach for his pocket, before then pulling away from what looked like an imminent sending off.

The Bernabeu was then stunned, after a long range Xavi strike was deflected by Marchelo, leaving Iker Casillas wrong footed and scrabbling to crawl away the ball which inevitably rolled into the net.

With Barca leading at the Bernabeu, Cristiano Ronaldo was presented with a glorious opportunity to tie the match when an Alonso cross was headed wide by Madrid’s top goal scorer.

A sucker punch goal ruled out any hint of comeback, when a deep cross by Daniel Alves was met at the back stick by Fabregas who dived in to head in his 8th goal of the season, putting clear daylight between the two clubs.

Mourinho put on Gonzalo Higuain to boost Real’s attacking options and a Sergio Ramos cross evaded the stretching foot of the Argentian striker, preventing him from bringing Madrid back in the game.

With 90 minutes fast approaching, Barcelona kept a stern back lie as well as attacking with presence to earn themselves their first El Classico win of the season.

Match Preview: Real Madrid vs Barcelona

Cristiano Ronaldo & Lionel Messi

The eyes of the watching world will be on the Bernabeu tonight, as Real Madrid look to extend their lead to six points over Barcelona in this season’s first El Classico encounter.

The first meeting between the fierce rivals this season, Madrid lead Barcelona by three points at the top of the table with a game in hand. This game see’s the Catalonians arrive at Santiago Bernabeu at a bad time, as Real have scored 28 goals in their last six games at home.

Barcelona show exception home form too; with 9 games, 39 goals and none conceded keeping them hot on the heels of the league leaders.

However their away form isn’t one to savour, as they have only taken two victories from six games having suffered a surprise defeat to Getafe in their last venture from the Nou Camp.

Jose Mourinho goes into the game with just one injury concern, as centre back Ricardo Carvalho has pulled a ligament in his right knee furthering him to the sidelines after overcoming back problems.

Pep Guardiola has no injury concerns ahead of the crucial tie; however he will be looking towards one player in particular to continue his impressive scoring record this season.

Lionel Messi has, yet again, been a one man show for Barca this season with 17 goals, 10 goals ahead of second club top goal scorer Cesc Fabregas.

Although the world footballer of the year’s continued supremacy of Spanish football has left the world in awe, it has been Madrid’s talisman who has matched the Argentine step by step.

Cristiano Ronaldo has matched Messi with 17 goals this season, along with six assists this season. With his incredible form in front of goal resembling his performance last season, which saw the Portuguese winger strike 40 goals in all competitions, Ronaldo has played an enormous part in Madrid’s winning run which has seen them win ten league games in a row.

Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola has taken account of Madrid’s incredible form, and has seen a big difference from last season in Mourinho’s men.

“They are stronger than they were last year”, said the Spanish football manager.

“They know each other better, they have spent more time together and know what their coach [Mourninho] demands of them.”

“Above all they defend well, be quick in transitions and pay attention to factors like the circulation of the ball.”

“It will not be easy because they have a very intense game.”

Jose Mourinho has refused to speak to the media towards the build up of El Classico, leaving the media responsibilities to assistant coach Aitor Karanka who believes that Real will go all out to win.

“It’s not just a match like any other. But we are not going to change our way of working whatever the result is tomorrow.”

“We could have a lead of four, six or nine points that would not damage our principle. We have to go after the three points like we always do.”