And finally, Madrid was able to beat FC Barcelona. Mourinho's team disposed of the traditional 4-2-3-1 formation with Coentrao, Di María, Özil and Benzema. The team knew that a lot of work from the offensive midielders was necessary to prevent Barcelona from getting easy scoring chances.
Suddenly, Real Madrid's worst players as of late (Alonso, Özil and Casillas) performed one of their best games of the season. Özil covered almost every passing line and delivered an assist to Cristiano Ronaldo that allowed Real Madrid to score the second and final goal. Alonso was great defensively as well, and Casillas saved a couple of clear goal scoring chances.The team started the game really well by pressing Barcelona's defenders and controlling the tempo of the game. The team enjoyed a lot of corner-kicks and counterattacks. Cristiano Ronaldo was brilliant whenever he had the ball, even making the referee show a yellow card to both Busquets and Mascherano.
In the 17th minute, Pepe was able to jump over Adriano off a corner-kick. Valdés stopped the ball, and when it all looked like Puyol had control of it to clear the danger, Khedira tackled the Spanish defender and placed the ball inside the net. After this goal, Madrid started to play defensively and Barcelona enjoyed most of the possession. But Madrid defended really well and prevented them from getting close to Casillas' goal. Only Xavi had a good chance when he faced the Spanish goalkeeper after a great pass by Messi, but Real Madrid's captain touched the ball and deflected it.
Arbeloa stopped Tello many times with a really good tactical display whenever the young winger faced him. Alves also challenged Coentrao and the Portuguese proved himself as a really great defender, correcting the mistake he commited against Bayern Munich.
The first half concluded with Barcelona feeling uncomfortable and the same 0-1 in the scoreboard. The feeling was still worrisome. Los blancos showed they could do some harm to Barcelona's defense. But the team started to let Barcelona dominate to the point where Guardiola's team could have made a comeback to fight for la Liga.
The second half started the same way, and Real Madrid's defense started to shine a little bit more. Coentrao was still great, but Alonso, Özil and especially Real Madrid's pair of centerbacks worked great in every Barcelona possession. Di María wasn't brilliant offensively, but he helped Arbeloa and the midfielders, and that was very important.
Alexis Sánchez entered the game for Xavi Hernández in the 69th minute and tied the game up one minute later after a very confusing play in which Casillas stopped two good shots. But the second rejection went right back to Alexis and the Chilean player pushed the ball inside.The Camp Nou started to cheer a lot more and it felt like Barcelona had a really good chance of coming back. Real Madrid players could have had deja vu, considering Barcelona's history of comebacks against this team.
But Cristiano Ronaldo came to the rescue once again. After a good recovery by the team, Özil got the ball and the midfield gave away a very precise assist to the Portuguese star. Ronaldo dribbled Valdés and scored Real Madrid's second goal. It was a really quick counterattack that disolved Barcelona's hopes of a comeback after just three minutes had passed since Alexis's goal. The team celebrated this one very effusively, knowing they only had to resist 20 more minutes to almost call la Liga.
Messi wasn't able to have a lot of touches because of Sergio Ramos's coverage. Whenever the Argentinian tried to receive the ball close to the box, the Spanish center back was there. Without Messi, Barcelona had to find other players. And his teammates just weren't there for him. Khedira's work on Iniesta's receptions were key, since the Spanish midfielder was probably Barcelona's second most dangerous player.
Mourinho introduced Granero for Di María and the midfielder helped the team by keeping the ball in our possession. Barcelona still had most of the possession, but Granero knew how to help his teammates by not risking the ball as much. Guardiola introduced Pedro and Cesc as well but just weren't able to impact the game at all. Just before the extra time, Mourinho substituted Özil and put Callejón's fresh legs in the game to keep pressing.
The referee added four more minutes, and Barcelona didn't have another chance. Benzema left the field for Higuaín in the 91st minute.
It's fair to say Real Madrid could've scored a couple of more goals off counterattacks in this final phase of the game, but the players didn't make the right decisions and still had to work hard get the awaited victory at the Camp Nou. When the game ended, Cristiano Ronaldo showed his happiness with every one of his teammates while Pepe kissed his badge (again) when leaving the field.
Now Real Madrid will need to win Bayern Munich to be in the Champions League Final. Then Sevilla will visit the Santiago Bernabéu, where Madrid will try to win three more points to confirm this current seven-point advantage. The players' morale should be really high right now, so the fans might see an improved Real Madrid in these last few games of the season. But Real Madrid needs to keep the focus on the next game, when they will need to overcome a one-goal deficit against a difficult Bayern Munich side.
Like us on facebook and follow us @managingmadrid.