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Were Real Madrid great or were Barcelona poor?

Last night’s El Clasico was as spectacular and controversial as one would expect as Real Madrid were comprehensively victorious over Barcelona winning 3-1 at in the Copa del Rey semi-final at the Camp Nou.

The visitors won the two-legged tie 4-2 on aggregate after Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty sent Jose Pinto the wrong way in the 13th minute. At 1-0 and 2-1 o aggregate the tie was far from over. Barcelona had the chances to get back in the game but failed to create enough magic to penetrate Real’s defence who stood up well to the test.

The holding La Liga champions now progress through to the Final of the cup and, after a disappointing and fractured season under Jose Mourinho in the league, they will feel they can salvage at least one piece of silverware as they head into their second leg tie with Manchester United next week in the Champions League at Old Trafford.

Questions will undoubtedly be asked of Barcelona – firstly of Gerard Pique for the opening goal. Whilst the Barca players surrounded the referee’s assistant behind the goal appealing the decision, they can have no legitimate complaints – it was a clear-cut penalty.

Pique got all of Ronaldo and none of the ball and was lucky to receive just a yellow card for the challenge, as he was luckily not the last man. That was poor defending from a World Cup winning centre-back who should have known better. That was the kind of naivety and clumsiness one would not expect from such a decorated and experienced professional. He let his side down.

At 1-0 at half-time, the tie was far from over. However, Barcelona came out for the second half with as much malaise and disorganization as they had in the first. It’s rare that arguably the best football team in the world show such misuse of the ball – that’s what Barca pride themselves on, after all. They keep possession and work hard to win it back.

That was not the case on Tuesday evening – Andres Iniesta, Xavi and even Lionel Messi were uncharacteristically wasteful in possession. It would be fair to say Madrid hurried and harassed them and forced a number of individual errors, subsequently but Barca were poor.

The Camp Nou fell silent when Ronaldo scored his and Madrid’s second little over 10 minutes into the second half. The fans, the coach and the players knew that was a deadly blow. Iniesta hung his head.

After that goal, it’s fair to say Barca lost their belief – they continued to play but with none of the verve and tenacity we have all come to expect. Then Real’s third went in from a Rafael Varane header and it really was game, set and match. With 20 minutes left on the clock, Madrid played only as a formality.

Jordi Alba’s goal on 89 minutes was their only reply – a consolation and something for the Camp Nou to cheer. The fans knew their team had been poor. Real Madrid were well-organized, audacious and clinical in possession, and showed conviction to put the game to bed. But Barcelona were the poorest as I’ve seen them in a long long time.

Perhaps it was a hangover from their 2-0 defeat at AC Milan in the Champions League but there can be no excuses – they were poor on the night and Real Madrid dutifully capitalized.

image: © Will Palmer

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