Barcelona Win El Clasico
At 7pm on a dark wet Sunday night in Barcelona it was finally time for the talkers to stop talking and the walkers to start walking. The hype before La Liga's first round of El Clasico - the FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid derby - was as vast as ever but, as ever, the result was to be decided by the men strolling out onto the football field...
As we know both teams are chock full of soccer stars, but extra attention in the press had been give to the physical condition of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, the two teams' respective talismen, both recovering from injuries. Both walked out onto the grass of the Camp Nou. In fact neither had a decisive impact with Ronaldo (as advised by the doctors) withdrawn half way through the second half, his most telling contribution a wasted golden chance when his shot was saved on the 20th minute with only Valdes to beat. Messi meanwhile enjoyed a good kicking at the feet of the Real Madrid midfield and missed a similarly easy chance which could have sealed victory for Barcelona.
No matter, it transpired as one goal was enough. And what a goal it was... Dani Alves, ever dangerous on the right, played a delightful cross over the Real Madrid back four. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had only just stepped off the bench for Thierry Henry when he found himself running onto Alves' ball, and - without breaking his stride - he forcefully sidefooted a sublime volley past the helpful Iker Casillas.
Real Madrid threw on Benzema and Raul, but despite having Busquets sent off, rather harshly, for a second handball (Henry's influence no doubt!), ten men Barcelona were able to hold on to the lead, their defence superbly marshalled as ever by the tenacious Carles Puyol who put in more than one goal-saving tackle in the course of the match.
Overall Barcelona will be well pleased with the win, but it was far from the emphatic 6-2 destruction they dealt to Real Madrid at the back end of last season and their fans may wonder if Madrid's big spending will pay off later in the season... but for now La Liga still sings to the tune of red and blue.