MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 18: Karim Benzema (L) of Real Madrid challenges Andres Iniesta of Barcelona during the Copa del Rey Quarter Finals match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on January 18, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
FC Barcelona beat Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu by a comfortable 1-2 margin, and will go into next week's game at the Camp Nou heavily favored to go on to the next round of the Copa del Rey. Mourinho's defensive plan didn't work as Barcelona was able to reach Casillas' goal many times in the first half.
Portuguese center back Pepe finally played as a defensive midfielder and completed a very rough game. The defensive line composed by Riocardo Carvalho and Sergio Ramos could not stop a single pass behind their backs, so it turned out to be a very bad match defensively for Madrid, despite the expectation from much of the fanbase that the team should have been more comfortable in that part of the game.It was a very surprising lineup by Real Madrid, with Carvalho coming back from his injury, Hamit Altintop playing right back and Coentrao replacing Marcelo at left back. It was very risky for the team to play both Carvalho and Altintop since they have not played a single competitive and important match for months.
The game started in a very tactical way as both Madrid and Barcelona tried to figure out how the other side was going to play. Madrid waited for Barcelona to give the ball to Busquets, so the team was not pressing defenders Piqué, Puyol or Abidal. Barcelona didn't know what to do with the possession of the ball at that point, because Madrid's midfielders were not tired yet and the team's attitude was almost perfect.
Barcelona decided to charge offensively through Iniesta, who was matched with Altintop. The Turkish player didn't start that matchup well, but learned how to play against the midfielder as the minutes passed. Iniesta played brilliantly during the first half but was not as good for the rest of the game.
Pepe saw a yellow card too early with a bad foul on Busquets in the 17th minute. This was a clearly mistake as it conditioned Real Madrid's defensive midfielders from then on.
After the first half an hour, Real's players started to look tired and the team was certainly begging for the end of the first half. Barcelona had some good chances to scorebut both Casillas and the post stopped Iniesta and Alexis' tries.
The first target was accomplished: Madrid finished the half with a clean sheet and earned a goal in a counter attack while having good luck on Barcelona's chances.
But in the 49th minute Barcelona scored in a way nobody expected: a corner kick against Madrid's towers. Pepe missed his man (Puyol) and Barça's captain was given an easy header to put the tie in the scoreboard. This is the only way you need to prevent Guardiola's team from scoring on set pieces. When you are competing that hard against a top team, you can't let them even the score off a set piece, specially when you have Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe to clear the danger.
Madrid's players lost all the faith they had earned. A 1-1 draw is not a good result at all in this kind of cup tie, so the team started to lose some patience and trust in the system. Mourinho subbed Lass (who didn't play a very consistent game) and Higuaín, clearly unnoticed during the match. Özil and Callejón were the ones in charge of providing Madrid some spark, but Abidal scored in the 77th minute to give Barcelona the lead and almost finish the leg up.
The second half was not similar to the first one and Madrid lost focus on what they were doing. While the team knew what to do in the first half, Barcelona prevent them from doing so in the second.
Pepe completed the bad play of the night when he stepped on Messi's hand voluntarily. It should have been a red card, but the referee didn't see it. While it's important to point out this very unfortunate situation--and nobody should like what he did--unfortunately, many other worse things happen in this sport.
It's necessary to point out that Barcelona's goals came from two very unfortunate plays. Their first goal was with a corner kick and Ramos clearly allowed Abidal to be onside on the second. It's clear that Real Madrid needs to complete a perfect game overall in order to beat Barcelona. Di Maria's absence was key in the first half as Higuaín didn't do much and Di María would've been more dangerous on the counter attack.
Mourinho was forced to play Altintop at right back if he wanted Lass in the middle. Varane is clearly too young for this game because if he commits a mistake it could really affect his potential development, and Albiol is obviously not an ideal player for this kind of match, so the Portuguese coach really had to play Carvalho as well. The injuries the team has suffered made him take those decisions, and nobody is really to blame for this match.
The team is still five points ahead of Barcelona in La Liga (Mourinho's priority) and tonight's game shows how big of an accomplishment that is. The Champions League is also coming back next month and the team should be in the next round, so nothing really big was lost today. Don't be too upset, as the team needs everybody's support for this upcoming game against Bilbao and the rest of the matches in Spain in order to ensure what would be a very meritorious Liga title.
Besides, there are still 90 minutes to be played at the Camp Nou. It's really a very difficult mission, but who knows what this team might be capable of.
Man of the Match?
Iniesta (605 votes)
Altintop (44 votes)
Cristiano Ronaldo (277 votes)
Other (comment section is below!) (131 votes)
1057 total votes