It may only be the Spanish equivalent of the community shield but whenever these two titans meet, its business like a normal classic league or champions league encounter. Both sides want to sink their bitterest rivals. The differences aren’t just in football, but also politically as well, but many of the two sets of players get on well off the pitch.
This was the night when Iniesta showed to the world why he is the best midfielder on the planet and in my honest opinion why he deserves a Ballon d’Or. He made Ozil, Alonso and Khedira, the core of the German and Spanish national team’s midfield look very average players throughout the game. His partnership with Xavi and Busquets was surreal, the passing, the touches, the vision, the movement, the skill and the fine through ball from Iniesta to Xavi to score Barcelona’s 3rd summed up everything this phenomenal maestro from Fuentealbilla is capable of. The only thing Iniesta lacked was a goal, but his work rate firmly deserved one.
Iniesta was wearing his new CTR360 Maestri III boots, check out his recent promo video for them
Despite the first half being goalless, the Barca midfield ruled the show. At one time, the possession read 80% – 20% in favour of the Catalans, but it certainly wasn’t the case that they didn’t look like scoring. Iniesta, Xavi, and Busquets looked like 3 of the biggest mafia bosses put together. They genuinely looked untouchable. However, this fabulous looking trio was spoilt as Busquets reverted to his standard amateur dramatics, and it looks to be the case that Alexis Sanchez has been attending these classes with him too, much to my displeasure. Busquets, a superb player, can’t be compared to Xavi and Iniesta. For one his role is different and the other two will both skip past or turn away from 2, 3 or 4 defenders and make it look so easy, especially Iniesta, who tonight looked like he had graduated from Hogwarts rather than La Masia! Busquets distributed well tonight, and held his pivote position tight but when advancing he looks uncomfortable on the ball. I’d much rather see Mascherano, Puyol, or Pique drive forward with the ball and he take a seat in the back line.
It was the familiar Portuguese figure of Ronaldo who opened the scoring as Madrid upped their game in the second half, as he somehow managed to get to the ball first and headed home a fine finish from a corner in the 54th minute. This was the first significant input from the Portuguese captain, but it was a big contribution, although afterwards he didn’t seem much of a threat or even present on the pitch. It took no time at all for Pedro to latch onto a through ball from the Barca midfield and slot it around Casillas in the 56th minute, although Joes Mourinho or “the one” as he likes to be referred too, believed it was offside. Barca really turned up the heat after the equaliser and on 70 minutes, Sergio Ramos brought down Iniesta in the area after he faked a cross and turned with the ball and rightfully a penalty was awarded. The penalty, dispatched into the right hand corner by none other than Lionel Messi sent the Catalans 2-1 up. Messi had produced a string full of efforts beforehand but had failed to make Casillas work, he did however conduct a series of wonderful 1-2’s to split open the Madrid defence and midfield. It was three in the 78th after tremendous work yet again from Iniesta taking it pass Ramos and slipping a through ball behind Albiol, before Xavi latched onto it calmly slotted around Iker Casillas in the Madrid goal. That seemed to kill the game off and it very nearly became four, when Messi latched onto a through ball but fantastic closing down from Casillas and superb hand prevented the Argentine from getting his second. But, within seconds Madrid were on the counter and after it seemed the opportunity had passed when Adriano had recovered and laid it back to Valdes, a cocky attempt to try and fool an oncoming Di Maria came back to haunt Victor Valdes just like it did after 24 seconds in the Bernabeu in October last year. Di Maria tackled the Barcelona goalkeeper and tapped home making it 3-2 and leaving a very embarrassed Valdes with his hands on his hips, but that was how it stayed.
It will be disappoint for Barca to only be 1 goal up, but Iniesta was tonight truly sublime. An outstanding performance carried out to the very highest order. He can’t be compared to Messi, they are two very technically different players which is why it has taken me till name to raise the Argentines name. It made me think that during the game, as many EPL fans say say Barca would be nothing without Messi. Exactly the same can be mentioned about Iniesta. Graham Hunter states that he is “the solutions man”. I completely and utterly agree.
The return leg in the Bernabeu is next Wednesday, as Vilanova’s men travel to Madrid to look to try and secure his first trophy as coach and there could there be anything sweeter than to celebrate in front of the Madrid crowd and Mourinho after last season’s eye gauging incident. Everything is too play for, anything can happen, it’s another El Classico!