Wednesday night saw the eighth 'Clasico' in the last ten months, by my count -- with the ninth coming up in just a few more days. We've now started to refer to these meetings as The Monthly Catfight in our office. Who's in charge of scheduling here...?!
Herewith, in no particular order, some observations from a game that can only be described as "Classic" if you are referring to the playacting and petulant behavior of the players on the pitch:
o Entering the contest, the Special One had a 1-8 record against Barcelona (Ed Note: make that 1-9 post-game). There's not many clubs in the world (read: none) that hold that type of advantage over the the Portuguese bossman.
o Ronaldo looked abolutely stunned -- stunned! -- when he scored the game's opener. It was almost as if he couldn't believe he had scored against the hated Blaugrana rivals after all the criticism he received last game (approximately 6 weeks ago).... He was likely even more stunned to realize that the goaltender he beat was not Victor Valdes, but Barcelona's second-string goalkeeper Pinto, who kindly let Cristiano's shot fizz right through his five hole.
o Curiously, the number of eye injuries in the match exceeded the number of fouls to the head by a factor or four or five to one. Call me suspicious, but it appeared that there may have been some slight playacting -- embellishment, we'll call it, and leave it at that -- going on. Either that, or there is some remarkable transitive property in the Spanish Capital that causes minor bumps to the arm or leg to be felt most directly in the affected player's facial region, causing the injured to grab and cover their eyes while rolling around wildy on the pitch.
o One of the things that is most impressive about watching Barcelona play is the weight of their passes. They're perfect. Virtually every time the ball moves across the pitch, it's neither underhit or overcooked. And when the ball is received, it's almost never trapped -- just redirected to the next open player. Youth coaches of America, take note.
o Most of time Carles Puyol may look like like a member of an '80s era hair band -- suspiciously like Correspondent Ed in his full Loverboy regalia, actually -- but he looked a bit more like Superman on Wednesday night, as he laid fully out to head in the game's equalizer. It took some serious commitment to dive for a ball that was never clear would even reach the floppy eared, big haired center back, and Barcelona's Captain was richly rewarded for his effort.
o Pepe's petulant hand stamp on Lionel Messi, Fabio Coentrao's headspike of same, and Cesc Fabregas' rebuttal to Pepe's shin represented everything that's wrong with Spanish football. They were sneaky and womanly. If this was English football, a tackle that resulted in a broken leg would have restored some manliness to the game. Where's Nigel De Jong when you need him?
o The very fact that the television producers of the game had to analyze and replay every single tackle in order to capture all the extra-curricular activities tells you all you need to know about the current state of the rivalry.
o Of course, Li'l Leo had the best revenge: his beautifully lobbed pass to Eric Abidal led to the game winner.
o Barca dominated the second half, and Real was left clutching at straws -- again. If the best that the Madridistas can do is a 2-1 loss at home, there isn't much hope for Los Blancos in the second leg.
This is farlieonfootie for January 22.