Unlikely goal scorers Puyol and Abidal took Barcelona from behind to triumph in the first leg of the Copa Del Rey quarter final.
Jose Mourinho led out a vastly weaker Real Madrid starting eleven than he normally plays, and a change of formation in attempt to counter the Barcelona passing game.
It was a relatively scrappy game of Spanish football, end to end entertainment was quickly promised with Ronaldo scoring the first goal for Real Madrid in just ten minutes. Benzima played an exceptional through ball to the Portuguese forward who promptly placed a low shot across the goal and behind Pinto, swapped out for Victor Valdes who normally commands from between the posts.
Barcelona though remained patient. Their dominance in the passing game was still apparent, even with such talented opposition. At half time, they had held onto possession for 71% of the time, even whilst 1 – 0 down. Switching the ball high and across wings was often observed, and wearing down the attack but never capitalising on it is nothing new from Barcelona.
It seemed as if Real were content with the lead, as they sat back to protect it, with at least seven players covering potential counter attacks from one set piece. Quickly after the halfway break however, Puyol had equalised from a corner, perfectly timing his run from the edge of the box to knock on a diving header into the bottom left-hand corner.
From then on, controversy ensued as both teams got fired up for the potential lead. Yellow cards were handed out numerous times, although not resulting in a sending off, totaling seven yellow cards. Pepe and Busquets were the prime offenders here, with numerous play-acting and theatrical dives and rough challenges from the pair.
Pepe in particular, was lucky not be sent off for stamping on Messi’s hand as he was down, which went unseen by the officials. He was taken off by Mourinho with about ten minutes left to play to avoid being awarded a red card.
With just fifteen minutes left to go though, the strong possession of Barcelona paid off, as they found a way through the Real Madrid defence, with Messi looping a ball through to Abidal, who cut through the defenders and calmly placed the ball past Casillas’ wrong side.
Then Barcelona’s possession game came into it’s own, while though challenging for goal a further few times, they looked to just keep the ball to themselves and stop Real from equalising.
It was expected to be a good game, with still a lot left for both teams to fight for in the final leg of the quarter final, but Barcelona have the edge going into it. Unfortunately, it was a very slow paced game to watch, with the referee continually stopping play for over aggressive tackles, diving and Spanish theatrics. Had it not been the two titans of European football playing, there wouldn’t have been much to see here.
Real Madrid Line Up:
Casillas, Altintop, Carvalho (Y), Ramos, Coentrao (Y)
Alonso, Pepe (Y), Diarra, Benzima
Ozil, Granero, Callejon (Y)
Barcelona Line Up:
Pinto, Alves, Puyol (Y), Pique (Y), Abidal
Xavi, Busquets (Y), Iniesta
Alexis, Messi, Fabregas
Alcantara, Adriano, Cuenca