Spare a thought for Wolfgang Stark. For about 75 minutes this was the El Crassico as players dived, pulled, slapped, and shoved each other. You’ve never seen full grown men whinge like this before. And one hopes it never happens again.
Pedro and Busquets were atrocious in their theatrics. Pepe took a dive like he had been poleaxed and Lassana Diarra quietly went around nastily clipping each Barca ankle. How he managed to stay on the field is one of the great mysteries.
Barca unsurprisingly had about 75% of the ball but ran into a Real team that sat back and soaked up the pressure as Mourinho applied the same anti-football tactics while at Inter. It works if you’re effective on the counter.
The problem was Real could muster very little threat. Cristiano Ronaldo was the lone ranger with very little supply. The striker had just about one testing shot and a header that flew over and that was it. His set pieces were tragic. He is a supremely physical lad but he has absolutely no guile. Carles Puyol shunted to left back and two paces slower was immense in blunting his endeavour.
The bad feelings spilled over at halftime and there was a fracas in the tunnel which resulted in Barca’s third string goalie Jose Pinto given the red card. After the half, Pepe flew in with with his right leg leading and clipped Dani Alves. The severity of the tackle is in dispute but the red was a reputation call. Referees are aware of players past records and Pepe is a known thug. But it set off Mourinho furiously winking at the linesman implying he had been paid off. It was red for the Real Madrid gaffer and he spent his minutes in the stands furiously scribbling instructions on a notepad.
Ibrahim Affelay made an instant impact as he came on for Pedro. Marcelo who had hitherto kept Alves and Pedro under wraps was left scrambling as the Dutch winger blazed past him to send a nice dipping cross which was gobbled up by Messi fronting Ramos. 10 minutes later the little maestro left the Real defense in sixes and sevens to finish off majestically with his right foot. The last 15 minutes were vintage Barca stroking the ball with ease and precision and running Real ragged.
Now it is Camp Nou and Mourinho will be without Pepe and Sergio Ramos. The right back’s brainless foul on Messi cost him a place in the second leg. The chance of a Man Utd vs Barca repeat final is looking very good.