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El Gran Clasico

12/14/08

Real Madrid tried to put the clamps down on Lionel Messi, hacking him nearly every time he touched the ball, but it didn’t deter the little maestro from working his magic. He still cut apart Real Madrid with ease, in one moment chopping the ball back down the line only to have his shot parried safely by Casillas.

 

Messi’s Barcelona teammates and the crowd wouldn’t stand for the hash treatment he was enduring, they whistled and jeered when it started to seem like this was obvious strategy by Real Madrid, to punish Messi when he got the ball. Pep Guardiola, his long coat flapping, jumping up off the bench on one occasion, when there were repeated swipes at Messi’s legs. It was theatre at the Camp Nou.

It was an interesting thing to see, a little legend was being attacked and then protected at the same time. The crowd and even the Real Madrid players almost understanding that they couldn’t stop Messi but they also couldn’t go too far and hurt him trying to foul him. As Messi is a prized talent for the game itself. Treatment I think Pele and Maradona both had to deal with and overcome.

Still, Messi was unlucky a few times not to score or at least have his rebounds not punched home. But Casillas was cat like in his reactions to hold Barcelona for most of the game until the final ten minutes. He first saved an Eto’o penalty but couldn’t keep out Eto’o when a corner was headed back across by Pujol and he, it looked like, thighed the ball home and ripped off his shirt and ran up the touchline to celebrate with the bench.

In the final minutes, a beautiful pass by Henry setup Messi for a teasing chip that Cannavaro couldn’t clear and only ended up smashing embarassingly into the post - perhaps even injuring himself on the play.

For those who are saying Henry is not happy or not doing much for Barcelona, they’re dead wrong. Rather, Henry looks more and more like the swift and dangerous attacker he once was while with Arsenal. This is news that the rest of La Liga does not want to hear.

Real Madrid did have a wonderful chance early in the game to silence the crowd and turn the game. Raul put Drenthe through with a crafty long ball but the Dutch winger couldn’t slot home the ball. He may have been better off trying to dribble around the on rushing Valdes instead of trying to slot the ball on the ground. I think the pressure was too much, and everything was much more difficult in an intense match like this one.

I’d be very surprised if Barcelona doesn’t end up winning both La Liga and the Champions League. They have too much firepower with Henry, Eto’o, Messi and then an injured Iniesta surely to come back soon. And Xavi looks so sharp these days. And Dani Alves plays not like a defender but a winger. And, it goes on and on from here with all the talent in waiting.

One player that stood out to me was Yaya Touré, at 6 foot three inches, he’s a big central midfielder who has superb touch and skill, as he nearly imitated Messi and waltzed through Real Madrid on a few different occasions. One player who wasn't up to his usual form for Barcelona was pale force member Gudjohnsen - he was pulled out in the second half.

The game was intense and well fought on both sides. Barcelona was just too much in the end, and I don’t think anyone can beat them at the Camp Nou. They move the ball around the park so well. They're just generally too hard to contain.

I’d added something to my list. I’ve got to see a Gran Clasico live.

Extra: There was a quick shot of Javier Bardem in the stands, not with Penelope Cruz, but laughing it up with some while taking in the game.


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