Thursday, August 18, 2011

Barcelona's Cup Continues to Runneth Over!

Messi Seals Deal in 3-2 win over Real Madrid for 2011 Super Cup


Mouriho adds a new twist to El Super Classico

There was only one game in town last night; in fact only one sportswatching option in the entire world to watch - and no, it wasn't the WPS playoff between Boston and MagicJack (yes, corporate sponsorship is so blatant these days that teams have dispensed with city/region names in place of brand names - can future teams named The JiffyLube, JiffyPop USA, or iPhone4G FC be far behind?). No, it was the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup at the Camp Nou, where FC Barcelona picked up where they left off last season, beating Real Madrid 3-2 (5-4 on aggregate) - thanks to Lionel's Messi's second goal in the 88th minute - to pick up their first silverware of the 2011-2012 season. Newly signed Cesc Fabregas was involved in the build-up to the winning goal (just six minutes after Karim Benzema provided the equalizer for Real), coming on as a late substitute to supply Adriano, who then crossed to Messi for the sliding effort.

Watch Messi' game-winner.


Andres Iniesta opened the scoring for Barcelona in the 15th minute (assisted by Messi) and Cristiano Ronaldo leveled the match five minutes later before Messi scored his first goal late in the opening half on a back-heel pass in the box from Gerard Pique.

Watch Messi's first goal.


It's not for nothing that games between these two teams are called "El Super Classico," for Barcelona vs. Real Madrid is the greatest sports rivalry in the world, bar none. Barca played Real Madrid four times in 18 days last spring and after a lax off-season of promotional touring and meaningless friendlies the clearly still-rusty defending champions of Spanish and European football started their heavy lifting with back-to-back games against their arch-rivals; they tied Los Blancos 2-2 in last Wednesday's first leg match at the Bernabeu in Madrid before last night's victory at the Camp Nou. And, like all their previous encounters with los Madristas this year, this prequel to the 2011-2012 Spanish League campaign was a hard-fought battle throughout the 90+ minutes, with every touch contested and the usual and testosterone-fueled violence and childish behavior at the end. It was a true "Super Classico" with great, intense play, stunning goals (epecially from the newly beefed-up Messi and Andreas Iniesta's cheeky chip shot over Iker Casillas), and the usual tactical and mental one-upmanship between the coaches. Moreover, it hammered home the point that Barcelona (yes, even now at about 70% fitness-level) and Real Madrid are clearly the two best teams not just in La Liga (where this year's title chase will be closer than ever) but in the world - and feature the two best (and most dangerous) club players in the world in Lionel Messi (183 goals and 75 assists in 273 appearances at Barca, including 103 goals in his last 110 games) and Cristiano Ronaldo (87 goals in 91 appearances since arriving at Madrid in 2009). As a Barca supporter, I'm scared; Madrid already had a super team, now they've bulked up even more and have more depth than any team in the world - former World Player of the Year Kaka can't even break into the starting lineup!

But the game ended in chaos after Real Madrid’s Marcelo was sent off for taking down Fabregas from behind in a hard, reckless challenge in front of the benches. This seemed to follow what has become the standard script for all Super Classicos beween the two teams since Mourinho arrived in Madrid. Subsequent red cards were issued to Madrid's Mezut Ozil and Barca's David Villa after a benches-clearing melee, but as expected Jose Mourinho had to upstage a bravura performance by his new-look Gallacticos with boorish, juvenile behavior that included dissing the world's best player (with a "you stink!" gesture on the sidelines), stepping on Cesc Fabregas' head, and either twisting the ear or poking the eye (depending on which video clip angle you see) of Barcelona coach Titi Vilanova at game's end.

Men Behaving Badly
Here are the telling clips of the game:

Watch Mourhinho make his "You made a Messi" stink face.


Watch Marcello's match-ending tackle & subsequent melee.


Watch Mourinho's eye-gouge.


Let's Talk About Cesc
Oh, and what about the new boy at Camp Nou? GOLTV Commentator Ray Hudson put it best when he said, "Cesc Fabregas spent eight seasons at Arsenal without so much as a wooden spoon to show for it and now he's lifting his first trophy after playing 10 minutes with Barcelona." As usual, Hudson was slightly off in his details (Fabregas did lift one trophy with Arsenal - the 2005 FA Cup), but his overall gist was spot-on. And people wonder why the former Gunner golden boy wanted to return home to the Camp Nou? It's called European football, folks - like all great footballers, Cesc wanted to compete for (and win) trophies. That should have been the storyline of this game, but instead Mourinho spoiled the party with his spotlight-stealing antics. Apparently, it's his world; we just live in it.


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