Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

El Gran Clásico: Barça regain advantage over Real Madrid

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 11, 2010
Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi scored the first goal in FC Barcelona's 2-0 win at title rivals Real Madrid

The game didn’t quite manage to live up to the hype but it still provided an important outcome as FC Barcelona won the latest version of “El Gran Clásico” with a 2-0 victory away at eternal rivals Real Madrid CF thanks to goals from Lionel Messi and Pedro either side of half-time. The win gives Barça a three point lead at the top of La Liga with seven matches left to play and although the title is far from over the Catalans do have the psychological advantage of having the better head-to-head record over Los Blancos having won both encounters against Real Madrid this season. Those results will decide the title in the event of both teams finishing level on points this season.

Although the headlines will be dominated by Messi’s contribution more credit should be given to the role played by Xavi Hernández who further cemented his position as one of the world’s great playmakers, whose distribution in this encounter was as near to faultless as it could get. His beautifully timed chip over to Messi in the 33rd minute allowed the Argentinian superstar to control the ball on his chest before steering it past Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas from just in front of goal. The home side had the chance to equalize not long after but Xabi Alonso could only manage to head over the bar from close range when the goal was at his mercy. Despite the statistics showing that Real Madrid had the most chances in the first half FC Barcelona were far from troubled in a game which they controlled with their superior possession and strong defence. The game was practically over as a contest when Xavi (who else?) provided the killer pass to Pedro which the young starlet beautifully shot low past Casillas in the 56th minute to double Barça’s lead. Having scored in every competition in FC Barcelona’s sextuple winning year Pedro has now also scored his first goal in “El Gran Clásico”, a record that any player would love to have at the end of his career, never mind a 22 year old.

At this point Real Madrid decided that they needed to attack and, for a while, they did create a couple of chances but the ever-improving Barcelona custodian Victor Valdes was comfortably controlling everything that Real threw at him, whether it be crosses into the box or shots from long range. Even Real Madrid’s £80 million (€94m) signing Cristiano Ronaldo was easily shut out by the Barcelona rearguard. His trademark free-kicks failed to trouble the keeper or the wall in front of him and his impact on the game was limited. As Real Madrid chased the game their opponents were able to soak up any pressure and hit the home side on the counter attack. Xavi provided Lionel Messi twice in the last twenty minutes of the game with a pair of fantastic opportunities which Messi should’ve scored but for some good goalkeeping by Spain’s numer one Casillas. Very late in the game it looked like Real Madrid’s talisman Raul had finally provided them with a lifeline but his goal was chalked off becuase of a handball by substitute Karim Benzema, a decision the Frenchman was seen to clearly disagree with by gesturing at the linesman. At the end of the game there were just four hundred people within the capacity 80.000 crowd who were celebrating up in the heavens of Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium as FC Barcelona had secured the win which takes them one step closer to a 20th Spanish league title.

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