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Real Madrid Go Down Swinging, Draw 1-1 at Barcelona

It wasn't the dream ending that many of us Madridistas had hoped for. But it wasn't a catastrophe: Real Madrid drew 1-1 at the Nou Camp in the second leg of the Champions League, a result that allowed Barcelona to advance to the final against Manchester United.

While the aggregate score of the two legs favored Barca, 3-1, there is a lot more than that to take away from this tie: for Madrid, there is a sense of injustice, and in my mind, a vindication of Mourinho's strategy. Had los blancos escaped the Barnabéu with a 0-0 draw--which looked like the correct result after 60 minutes of play (that is, until CDM/CB Pepe was unjustly ejected)--today's 1-1 draw would have seen them through to the final.

But we're not here to talk about last week's game: we rehashed that in our last post, and don't feel like reliving it. Today's game was much more indicative of where these two teams stand--when the cards are on the metaphorical table, and when Madrid manages to finally end a match with 11 men on the pitch, these two teams are very very even. Despite the possession and shot statistics (Barcelona dominated both), the final score, the thing that counts, was 1-1. Madrid defended well, protected the goal, and executed one perfect, lethal, counter-attack.

While there was some controversy today, especially when referee Fran De Bleeckere unfairly disallowed a fair goal by Higuaín for a non-existant "foul" (and by that I mean Cristiano Ronaldo getting tripped and accidentally clipping Mascherano's back heel with his back), this isn't what we should take away from the match. What we as Madridistas should see is a team that knows how to fight, a team that can play with this so highly-lauded and FIFA-beloved Barcelona team.

So as we approach the tail end of our season, there are a lot of things to be happy about, and a lot of things to be hopeful about. We can be happy that this young, exciting team has begun to gel; that Kaká is finally looking like the player we wanted to see all along; that Karim Benzema has had such a good year; that Mesut Özil and Angel di María may have been some of the best signings the front office has made in years; that Mourinho motivated this team to fight in every match; and that the youngest team in the league fought tooth and nail with the best Barcelona side of all time, and won the Copa del Rey.

The "foul" that disallowed Higuaín's goal.
Sure, we can feel angry that this tie was heavily influenced by the referees, that Dani Alves should get nominated for Best Supporting Actor, that out of the five games Madrid has played against Barcelona, they ended the game with 11 men only once. But that's not the point. This is the time of year for reflection, for looking to the positives, and to the things we need to improve.

In the coming days I'll do a piece or two on the season as a whole, and probably on what talent we should bring in in the off season. For now, let's all take a moment to reflect on this season, to see the good with the bad, where we went right next to where we went wrong. And let's look to the future with excitement and hope for this young team.

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