Sunday, April 02, 2006

Carles Puyol: man of iron

There was a moment in the second half of el Classico last night that tipifies the difference between Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Barça had their umpteenth corner and both Puyol and Sergio Ramos rose for the ball. They walloped their heads together and Ramos fell to the ground clutching his face. Puyol on the other hand rubbed his nose, shook his head and walked away. He is made of Catalunya. Rijkaard substituted him late on as Carles appeared to be mildly concussed and couldn't really walk straight. He still took the time to place the captains armband on 'dinho and applaud the Camp Nou. What a man.

Now, on to the match the Carles was playing in. Stats, like facts, can be used to prove anything but lets trot out a few anyway. FCB had 68% of the possession, they had 35 shots on goal, 11 of which were on target yet their only goal came from the penalty spot. Madrid had two shots on goal (Soccernet says three but I can't recall a third), one of which Baptista punted over the bar early in the second half and the other a simply sublime goal by Ronaldo. They were reduced to ten men after twenty five minutes when Roberto Carlos got sent off for being a spa (booked for arguing over the
awarding of the Barça penalty and then again for arguing about the award of a free kick) yet for all the blaugrana could throw at them Casillas' heroics aided by some poor finishing from Larsson of all people meant that it finished 1-1.

It wasn't a great game, the second half in particular really dragged at times. Casillas was simply incredible, Madrid would be in dire straits without him. Motta was carried off before half time with a knee injury (yes, again) and will be out for up to three weeks. With Marquez and Edmilson already out,
Barça are looking a little lightweight down the middle. Thankfully the draw means that they're still 11 points clear of Real with only seven games left and Sevilla aside they don't have anyone decent to play so they should cope so long as no one else steps on a rake.

So what else? 'dinho had a bit of an off night, all of his freekicks were rubbish and clattered against the wall. Eto'o was a bit perepheral at times too, getting stuck out on the left too often. No one played badly though, Valdes didn't have a save to make (there was absolutely nothing he could have done for Ronaldos goal, it was just brilliant) and the defence was rarely called upon either.

The lack of goals is somewhat worrying. In their last three games, FCB have scored just once, from the penalty spot against a godawful Malaga, a very beatable Benfica and the ten men of Real Madrid. With the second leg of their quarter final on Wednesday they really need to sharpen up.

That's about it, Fiorentina and Roma are on Bravo now so...

"The referees seem to be against us. They blow for non-existent penalties and free kicks." - Ronaldo

Yes of course they are. The refs are against Real Madrid. The same way they're against Manchester United and Juventus. Shut up Ronny. Before I go though have a read of the match reports from fcbarcelona.es and realmadrid.com. While the blaugrana one is somewhat skewed toward FCB, the Real one is off the charts biased and absolutely hilarious.

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