Sometimes, I really wonder why I subject myself to self-induced heart attacks, of the Real Madrid-Barcelona kind.
The first half from Real Madrid was rather decent—a clean sheet plus a goal from Cristiano at the 11th minute wasn’t too shabby. While Barcelona, as usual, dominated the possession, there were two things in the first half that worked for Real Madrid’s favor. First, this was not the sharpest of Barcelona teams that had played, with the passing not quite at its usual dangerous accuracy. Second, credit must be given to the team effort in defending the goal in the first half—while the action was pretty much in front of Iker Casillas, the shots on goal by the Catalans were below the usual heart attack-inducing numbers I’ve grown used to.
Sure, it was an interesting line-up that we had, with Hamit Altintop at right back (he managed to contain Andres Iniesta, at least), Ricardo Carvalho fresh off injury at center back together with Sergio Ramos, and Fabio Coentrao at left back. Pepe was pushed up as a defensive midfielder, operating with Lass and Xabi Alonso. Higuain started with Benzema and Cristiano up front, but was not much of a factor.
Sometimes, I just want to believe we’re not over the psychological hump. Barcelona’s first goal was off a stellar Puyol header (how many times have we seen this—Xavi taking a corner kick and Puyol left unmarked to coldly dispose the ball onto the goal?), and whatever psychological advantage Real Madrid had was gone. The second goal courtesy of Abidal was not much better, as he has been allowed to be on an onside position.
Surely, we missed some firepower in the offense and a sense of solidity in defense, for various reasons. (And Pepe, good grief, don’t go Hulk-ing on the pitch without valid reasons!) As for the psychological hump, the recent story arc for El Clasicos has been that Real Madrid starts out well, scoring an early goal, then Barcelona equalizes and goes on to win, because they erased whatever mental advantage Real Madrid had.
Honestly, I don’t feel good about the vuelta in Camp Nou, but there’s always a part of me that hopes Sergio Ramos dropping the Copa del Rey atop a bus would be sure damn repeated.