Messi At The Double
This was not a classic Clasico. Neutrals expecting two teams, arguably the best in the world right now, to dazzle audiences with a display of footballing brilliance were sorely disappointed. Real Madrid set out to win the game by fair means or foul, using a physical approach designed to steamroller their opponents into submission, whilst Barcelona's principal tactic was to roll around on the floor at every opportunity, in attempt to get the home team carded or sent off, surrounding the referee and haranguing him en masse. It was not a great advert for Spanish football.
If Real Madrid's dirty approach was to be condemned, then much worse was the sight of Pedro and Busquets, reeling about in simulated agony, whenever the hand of any of the Madrid players came within touching distance of their face. Eventually it was Alves who showed his teammates how to execute this tactic successfully however, waiting until Pepe had foolishly shown his studs, before beginning an Oscar-winning act from the deck of the Bernabeu.
The referee, who had already carded Arbeloa for an act he didn't himself witness, whipped out the red and Mourinho's men vs. Barcelona was following a familiar pattern of farcical sendings off. With eleven vs. ten Barcelona were able to find the space they needed to open up the Madrid defence and take the lead, substitute Afellay doing great work on the right to beat Marcelo and cross for Messi to open the scoring. The second goal was a superb individual effort by the Argentine, single-handedly snaking through the backline and angling a shot beneath Casillas.
Of course it's easier against 10 men, and if Barcelona really want to be considered the best team in the world (by those outside their loyal fanbase), they will have to consider outplaying their opposition, not out-acting them. The pantomime continues next week.