Sunday, April 22, 2012

Real Madrid beats Barcelona for La Liga

Having bottled up Messi and unleashed a perfect counterattacking goal to win at Camp Nou, Real Madrid in essence won the La Liga title for the first time since 2008.  Mesut Ozil's absolutely perfect left-footed lead pass into space for Ronaldo, who curved it home at an impressively tight angle, will be the moment I remember.  Ronaldo's goal came mere minutes after Barca's tying goal and he celebrated by motioning, "Everyone calm down, I've got this".  Though there are still 4 games to go, all they need now is 6 points to clinch.  It was possible that Real would have won the league even if they lost this rivalry match, but actually overcoming their crown-holding arch-nemesis at their house is infinitely more satisfying and should quiet any critics about the legitimacy of their title.  It was also the first time since 2007 that Madrid has won at Camp Nou.

Other interesting facts:

- Mourinho finally got his first win at Camp Nou in 10 attempts (with 3 teams).  With last year's Copa del Rey championship win over Barca and now this enormous league win, Mourinho is beginning to fulfill the massive expectations for which he was hired.

- Ronaldo's breathtaking 73rd minute game-winner was his 42nd league goal, temporarily breaking the tie with Messi for the all-time La Liga single season record.  Ronaldo currently has 54 goals in all competitions on the season.

- Ronaldo has also scored 4 goals in the last 5 Clasico matches.  Conversely, Messi has been goal-less in the last 4 Clasicos.  For all the deserved talk about Messi's greatness, Ronaldo has taken over as the better Clasico-performer right now.

- Sami Khedira's 17th minute goal set the all-time La Liga team record at 108.  (Real Madrid also set the previous 107 goal mark back in 1989-90).  There are still 4 games left.

- If Real wins all 4 matches left, they will end up with 100 league points, another La Liga record.

Should Real and Barca both overcome their 1 goal deficit going into the 2nd leg of their Champions League semi this week (both their games at their respective homes), we will have the grand Clasico finale that futbol fans around the world would be waiting for.  Real would have a chance at an unbelievable 10th title.  As a Real fan though, I think I'd rather see Chelsea, haha.

My friends are always wondering why I always support Real over Barca.  I must concede that:

- Barcelona plays a much more attractive style than Real.  Offensive football at the finest - their tika-taka passing is beautiful and dominant.  Many have called this Barcelona team the best of all time.  I loved it when Spain won using this philosophy.  Real, perhaps out of necessity, employs a much more destructive and physical style to counter Barca.

- Barca's offensive engine was homegrown - Xavi, Iniesta, Busquests, Messi, etc - not hired mercenaries.  The philosophy of the upper management is in question here.

- Mourinho is not the most likable of coaches.  His arrogance is 2nd to none (as is his managing brilliance perhaps).

- Real's greatest star, Ronaldo, is much more unlikeable than Messi.  Fame-chasing, suave and arrogant, Ronaldo would be grouped with players like Kobe, A-Rod, and Tom Brady, while Messi is more like Kevin Durant, Josh Hamilton or Peyton Manning.

- Real is similar to the Lakers or Yankees, 2 teams I am bred to dislike - historically successful, financially dominant, organizationally arrogant, perpetually and inherently benefited by the inequitable system in place, drawing bandwagon fans all over the world.

So why am I a Real guy?  2 reasons:

1) Zidane is the greatest of our time.  I've been a Real follower since he signed in 2001.

2) Rafa Marquez is my most hated player of all time.

Hala Madrid.

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