Step back from that ledge, Real Madrid fans. Sometimes, Lady Luck just doesn't happen to be on your side (and yeah, I know that seems to be the case in general against FC Barcelona, but still...come on). Real Madrid lost the first (of certainly many) Clasicos Saturday night at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, falling 1-3 to arch-rivals Barcelona, thanks in large part to a lucky bounce from midfielder Xavi Haernández in the second half, and terrible (bordering on comically unlucky) finishing by the merengue offensive corps. Cristiano Ronaldo was, arguably, the second most important person in the loss (after the aforementioned Lady Luck), as he squandered a series of obvious goal-scoring chances throughout the match (including a ridiculous header chance in the middle of the second half).
The game started fantastically well for Madrid, as Mourinho's high press resulted in a poor decision from Barcelona keeper Victor Valdés, who pushed a ball to Angel Di Maria, who slotted it back to Cristiano Ronaldo, who blasted it towards goal. The ensuing melee left Karim Benzema alone in front of goal, and the Frenchman cooly slotted the ball past Valdes. 1-0.
But, unfortunately for Madrid, that was essentially all the luck they would get on the night, as chance after chance skidded past the post or past the stretching, yearning feet. Barcelona would tie the game in the 30th minute, as a brilliant maneuver from Argentine phenom (is he even still a phenom at this point?) resulted in a perfect through-ball to Aléxis Sancez, the Chilean international, who calmly slotted the ball past Iker Casillas. While the goal was deserved (Madrid certainly hadn't been the superior side, though Barcelona was not better), it was completely unlucky that it happened to fall to Alexis, the player who had spent much of the first 45' on the ground spinning or next to the referee complaining about the spinning. [That last bit was only slightly editorialized; here comes the real editorial bit: shame on you Alexis. You are so much better than what you showed off in tonight's match. That was disgraceful, Oscar-winning acting.]Barça would take the lead for good in the second half, as Madrid seemed a bit shellshocked coming out of the locker rooms. Xavi wound up with a high-bouncing ball after a lot of scuffle in the Madrid area, and blasted the ball towards Iker Casillas without much thought as to where it would end up. Unfortunately for Madrid fans, an unlucky bounce off a Madrid defender's leg sent the ball cascading past Casillas and into the bottom right corner of the goal. 1-2, and Lady Luck had spoken.
Ten minutes later, Madrid missed their best chance of the night to equalize, as Cristiano Ronaldo--absent for much of the match (or worse...)--blasted a one-on-one header wide by a few feet. It's the type of shot that Cristiano makes 99 percent of the time; the one percent that he misses it? This game. Shocking, I know. And, completely unironically, Barça would score on the next possession, to cement the score at 1-3. A swift counter attack left the ball perfectly on a charging Cesc Fàbregas' head--he had been essentially absent up until then--and in the blink of an eye Madrid was down for the count.
There's a lot to be said about Madrid's mistakes, both tactical and mental, but the real award in this game should go to a few people: first, Leo Messi for fabricating two goals out of thin air (he's awesome, no doubt about it), second, to Lady Luck for letting Xavi's ball bounce in, and third, to Angel Di Maria, who really did play his heart out, even after he almost went down injured in the first half. We'll get into the what we should do, what we shouldn't do in the next post, which should be a tactical analysis courtesy of Lucas.
There is a lot more to say about this match, and a lot more should be said. Unfortunately, I don't think I have the ability to do that here--I'm still a little bit too bummed to do much recapping. But I should say (and I know I said this in the comments thread) I wouldn't trade the time I've had with this club for anything in the world. I'm proud to be a madridista, proud to be a member of this awesome community here at Managing Madrid, and I'm proud of the way our boys fought tonight.
Hasta el final, vamos Real.