Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid: El Clasico Victory Sees Madrid Advance to Final

Barcelona v Real MadridThis past Tuesday night saw an extremely exciting match, as the two biggest teams in Spain met once again for yet another edition of El Clasico at the Estadio Camp Nou in Barcelona.

With the teams holding out a draw in the first leg, this game was still very much open, which made looking forward to a second leg even more exciting! I’m sure everyone expected a very strong performance from both teams, and even more from the home team, who would be out to erase the pain of a European loss from the minds of their fans and get back to winning ways.

All eyes, I’m sure, were on Ballon D’Or winner, Lionel Messi, as well as on a very strong Cristiano Ronaldo as the world waited for the referee to blow the first whistle.

For the first 5-10 minutes of the game, Barcelona looked to be the first team to score, as they kept the most possession and seemed to threaten more at the Madrid end. The home side were even almost rewarded with a penalty in the 12th minute, only that the bad challenge had happened just outside the box.

After having gotten a free-kick in a very good spot from that challenge, however, the home side failed to take advantage of that chance, and their opponents were able to take advantage of this and make a good counter. In only about 60 seconds, what could’ve happened at one end happened at the other; Cristiano Ronaldo was fouled in the penalty area and the away side were awarded a penalty, which Ronaldo successfully converted into a wonderful goal, making him the first ever player to score in six successive clasicos away from home.

As soon as the home side realized what this meant, they tried to level things again, but the Madrid defense was just too strong. The whole Madrid team was playing confidently from their lead. Messi had a few decent attempts on goal, but Sergio Ramos & co. weren’t about to let anything ruin the night for their team! They did everything to clear the ball quickly and get their team on to good counters and try to catch their adversaries slipping.

Real Madrid’s wishes came true after Cristiano Ronaldo, with a little help from Angel Di Maria, was able to get past Pinto and net his second of the night, providing his team a little more safety in the form of a 2-goal cushion.

Barcelona v Real MadridI think that at this point, with the way the home side were playing at that moment, many of us thought we would see a hat-trick from the magical Portuguese international. And indeed, we saw something close to that when he almost got a touch to his side’s third goal of the night, which was courtesy of an absolutely magnificent header by Raphael Varane. Three goals from Real, and by now FC Barcelona were surely finished, it seemed!

With only about 22 minutes left for Barcelona to get three goals, at least, it would only take them a miracle. The home side started to pick up a bit, but it was just not enough. Lionel Messi wasn’t quite getting there, and the Barcelona defense was just all over the place! Real Madrid could’ve added to their lead a few times after that, but fortunately for Barcelona, they were prevented.

The game was basically all Madrid from there, although there were a few good attempts to get the ball forward from the Blaugrana. All they managed to get, however, was a last-minute consolation (no, not from Messi, but from Jordi Alba)!

In as much as one would expect some drama and controversy in an El Clasico, it was great to see a clean match, in that no players were sent off during this match. There was a little trouble caused to Real Madrid defender Pepe by Puyol & co. towards the end, as well as the usual trouble in the stands, but it was nothing too serious; just a lot of pressure for the home side. Three yellow cards were issued during this match; 2 to Barcelona (Pique, Puyol) and 1 to Real Madrid (Arbeloa).

After their decisive victory over Barca, Real Madrid now advance to the 110th Copa Del Rey Final against Atletico Madrid. The match will be contested on 18 March 2013, and the (neutral) ground at which it will played in will be announced by RFEF. Their last meeting at the Copa Del Rey final occurred in 1975, where Real Madrid emerged victorious following 4-3 penalty shootout win (after ending 0-0 AET).

Squads:

Jordi Roura (standing in for Tito Vilanova) and Jose Mourinho lined up the following squads:

Barcelona Starting XI:

Pinto, Dani Alves, Jordi Alba, Pique, Puyol (c); Busquets, Fabregas, Iniesta, Xavi; Messi, Pedro

Subs:  Valdes, Adriano, Song, Mascherano, Alcantara, David Villa, and Tello

Real Madrid Starting XI:

Diego Lopez, Arbeloa, Coentrao, Varane, Sergio Ramos (c); Di Maria, Ozil, Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Ronaldo; Higuain

Subs: Adan, Pepe, Callejon, Kaka, Modric, Essien, Benzema

Final Score: Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid

Ronaldo 13′ (pen), 57′, Varane 68′, Jordi Alba 89′

Written by @TrueBlueFemale

Copa Del Rey 2013 Semi Final Preview: Barcelona vs Real Madrid

El ClásicoOn Tuesday night, millions of people worldwide will have their eyes glued to their TV’s as El Clásico will take place at Camp Nou.

It is certain to be a thrilling game as a place in the Copa Del Rey final hangs in the balance, following a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabéu. In the first leg, the sides battled out a draw with nothing to separate the teams. Madrid defender Rafael Varane, who is just 19 years of age, was one of the stand out stars of the night, and provided Madrid with a fearless defensive display to keep the big guns of Barcelona quiet for most of the night. Since this tie, Madrid and Barca have both managed 2 wins, a draw, and a loss. In the UEFA Champions League, Madrid held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw in the 1st leg, whilst Barcelona have a huge mountain to climb as they lost 2-0 to AC Milan at the San Siro.

With Barcelona 15 points clear of rivals Real Madrid, surely José Mourinho’s team can no longer retain their league title. Therefore, Madrid have set their attentions to the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League. Mourinho knows he must win a trophy this season, or he will be under serious pressure in his managerial position, although rumors suggest he will leave the club anyways at the season’s end. Madrid will fancy their chances as they are unbeaten in their last 4 games against Barcelona, earning 3 draws and a win. However, Barcelona will also fancy their chances as they are flying form domestically this year, 12 points clear at the top of La Liga, and in the semi-final of the Copa Del Rey.

Real Madrid

Things To Note
  • Real Madrid have the 2nd best away defensive record, only conceding 13 goals away from home this season.
  • They have a very solid defence, with the likes of Ramos and Varane at their disposal.
  • However, even with the quality Madrid have going forward, they still lack the amount goals that matches Barcelona. They have scored 20 less goals this season than Barcelona in La Liga, which has let them down this season.
  • Real Madrid have lost 5 games away from home this season in La Liga.
Key Players
Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano RonaldoClearly Real Madrid’s most influential player this season, netting 37 goals in total in the 2012-2013 season (4 of which were scored in the Copa Del Rey). Every time Cristiano Ronaldo steps on the pitch, he poses a threat to any opposition he comes up against. He possesses a good record against Barcelona in recent times, scoring 4 goals against the Catalan Giants this season (La Liga-2, Super Cup-2). Ronaldo owns many strengths such as pace, power, and aerial ability. He will be looking to use these abilities against Barcelona, and guide his side to Copa Del Rey success.

Mesut Özil

In recent weeks, Özil has been a stand out performer for Real Madrid. He impressed against Manchester United in the Champions League, looking very energetic and creating many chances for Madrid. In La Liga this season, he has scored 4 goals and assisted 7 goals. He seems to link up well with Madrid’s hit-man Cristiano Ronaldo. He is certain to start for Madrid on Tuesday, as he has played a key role in their success this season.

Barcelona

Things To Note
  • Barcelona are in great form this season, only losing 1 game domestically.
  • They are unbeaten in Nou Camp this season.
  • They lost their previous Champions League game 2-0 against AC Milan.
  • They have scored 80 goals in La Liga already this season (with Lionel Messi scoring just under half of those goals [37]).
Key Players
Lionel Messi

Lionel MessiHe doesn’t take much describing really; he has been classed as ‘The greatest ever’ several times by many pundits. Week in week out, he performs for Barcelona and just continues to score and score. In 2012, he scored a record-breaking 91 goals in a calendar year. It really was breath-taking to see a player of his quality continue to score as often as he did. There is no doubt that he will be a key part of Barcelona’s play on Tuesday, as he links up well with Xavi and Iniesta who are the core of Barcelona’s offense.  The clash of Ronaldo vs Messi will be a one to watch, as they both strive off each other’s success, but who will win this battle?

Andrés Iniesta

Andrés Iniesta will play a very active role on Tuesday evening. He has assisted 13 goals for Barcelona this season and has scored 2 goals. Iniesta has an extraordinary pass success rate this season (89%) which is way above the average La Liga player. He has great composure on the ball and can always find a pass. He has great vision and can read the game like no other. When Lionel Messi broke the goal record last year, Xavi and Iniesta assisted the majority of goals he scored. Messi links up well with Iniesta and understands the way in which he plays.

Summary

El Clásico is certain to entertain, with 2 world class teams facing each other aiming to set the world alight and guide their team to the Copa Del Rey Final. With the game hanging on a knife edge with the score (1-1) after the first leg, both teams will be looking to win the game; this will guarantee goals. Both teams own world class players with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Mesut Özil, and Andrés Iniesta. You are certainly in for a treat and this match-up is a MUST watch for all football fans.

Prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid

Written by @FirstFastFooty

Champions League Round of 16 Preview: Part 4

Porto vs. Malaga

James RodriguezLikewise to the Valencia-PSG tie, this fixture seems to be outshone by the other dazzling fixtures ahead, but with an array of talent on display, it would be rude not to watch.

Porto have been going neck and neck with Benfica for many years now, and yet again we see the two Portuguese toe to toe. Only the goal difference separates the two. With this in mind, will Porto give a high importance towards Europe?

Malaga on the other hand have been the surprise package in Spain, others tipped them to fail what with their financial trouble, but I’m going to tip them as the team to watch in this tournament. Most definitely the dark horse this year.

Key Players

Throughout the years, Porto have lost and found world class strikers, such as Falcao and Hulk, but they have also managed to replace these quality attackers with players such as Martinez and Rodriguez. A Columbian theme certainly runs through this club. That’s why I believe the key players for Porto will be none other than Jackson Martinez and James Rodriguez.

Malaga’s threat will be well known throughout the football world. That threat is 2012 Tuttosport’s Golden Boy Isco. The Spanish playmaker has been the catalyst of Malaga’s threat so far this season, having scored two goals in the Champions League  already. I feel that if Isco steps up to the occasion, Malaga will advance.

Prediction

Malaga are the team to watch in this competition. Yes, they may be cash strapped at the moment but I believe they have enough quality to advance to next round. I’m going for a Porto win in the first leg and a Malaga win in the second which will see them advance on goal difference.

1st Leg: Porto 1-0 Malaga
2nd Leg: Malaga 2-0 Porto

Real Madrid vs. Manchester United

Robin van PersieI have saved the best for last. Arguably the most mouth-watering of ties in the round of 16. It’s Ferguson vs. Mourinho, Rooney vs. Ronaldo, Los Galatictico’s vs. The Red Devils. A true clash of the titans.

I can see Mourinho putting his all into this game. His side sit 3rd in La Liga with no hope of catching the rampant Barcelona. The Champions League is perhaps Mourinho’s only chance of keeping his job in the Bernabeu hot seat.

Madrid and United have some history against each other, the most recent being the thriller of a Champions League quarter final 2003 in which Real Madrid advanced 6-5 on aggregate. This game is must watch, no doubt about it.

Key Players

Real Madrid have a whole host of threats that could hurt Manchester United, their main one coming from a player who is well known to United: none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world at the moment, having tallied up an impressive 24 goals in 22 starting appearances. He may have Sir Alex Ferguson ruing the day he once let him go.

£24 million pounds? Injury prone? Past his day at 29? All these questions where thrown about the day Manchester United got their man Robin Van Persie. It was a gamble but my God did it pay off! Having already scored 18 goals in 22 games in his debut season, RVP  has been seen as the man to guide United to their 20th title. He will certainly have a say in both legs.

Prediction

Being a Manchester United fan, I’m finding it hard to predict this one. My heart says United, but my head says Real. If the Reds can manage a score draw or even a 2-1 loss in the first leg, they will have a big chance of advancement. I really couldn’t call this game, but what I will say is that if Real Madrid advance to the next round, they will go on to win the Champions League. You heard it here first.

1st Leg: Real Madrid ?-? Manchester United
2nd Leg: Manchester United ?-? Real Madrid

Hope you enjoyed the fourth part of my Champions League preview featured on FutbolPulse! You can view my blog at thefootballsupplement.wordpress.com and follow me on twitter @TFSupplement.

Messi Wins 4th Successive Ballon d’Or Ahead of Ronaldo and Iniesta

Argentina and Barcelona striker Lionel Messi was awarded his 4th consecutive Ballon d’Or at a ceremony held in Zurich, Switzerland on Monday.

Messi Wins Ballon d'OrMessi crushed the world record last year, scoring 91 goals for his country and his club in a single year. Those goals broke Gerd Muller’s long-standing record of 85 goals for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972, making the Argentine the clear favorite to win the award after such a successful season. Of those 91, Messi scored 79 for Barca and another 12 for Argentina in a total of 69 games in 2012.

But despite all of his goals, Barcelona did not have a very successful season. They conceded La Liga to arch-rivals Real Madrid by a margin of 9 points, and lost to Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Messi was part of the 3-man shortlist selected to be voted on for the prize. The other two players contending for the Ballon d’Or were his Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo. National coaches and captains as well as selected media cast their votes for who they felt was best suited for the award.

The final results polled:

  1. Lionel Messi-41.60%
  2. Cristiano Ronaldo-23.68%
  3. Andres Iniesta-10.91%

Messi became the first player to win the FIFA Player of the Year Award 4 times in a row. With 3 titles, Messi was previously tied with former France international striker, and now UEFA president, Michel Platini. Now that he has surpassed that benchmark, it can now be confidently said that Messi is the best footballer in the world.

At a news conference following the results, Messi said:

“To tell you the truth this is really quite unbelievable. The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words.”

“I would like to recognize my other colleagues from Barcelona. Andres, it has been great to train and play alongside you.”

“I would also like to recognize all of my friends in the Argentina national team, everyone that has worked with me, coaches and staff and my family and my friends. Also my wife and my son. Thank you.”

Meanwhile, a slightly downcast Ronaldo congratulated Messi with the award:

“Whether I win or not it doesn’t matter, it’s a privilege to be here.”

Messi Wins Ballon d'OrBut in case you have forgotten, Ronaldo had also won the Ballon d’Or. The Portuguese was named FIFA Player of the Year once before, seemingly decades ago in 2008, before Messi’s prime. He wore a New York Yankees cap to the pre-gala conference in which he participated.

In the meantime, US international Abby Wambach was named FIFA Women’s Player of the Year. Also, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque and US Women’s coach Pia Sundhage were both given the coach accolades after leading their teams to a Euro Cup and Olympic victory, respectively.

Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho and former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola finished behind del Bousque. At the news conference, Guardiola confirmed that he plans to resume coaching at the start of next season.

Uzbekistan won the fair play award for their outstanding disciplinary record, while Franz Beckenbauer won the FIFA presidential award.

The World XI All-Star team, which was chosen by FIFPro group of players’ unions, was made up completely of players contesting in Spain’s La Liga. All 3 contestants for the Ballon d’Or were on that list, while the other 8 consisted of players from Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid.

The goalkeeper was none other than Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas, accompanied by teammates Sergio Ramos and Marcelo as well as Barcelona’s Dani Alves and Gerard Pique who all made up the defense. Iniesta stood alongside teammate Xavi Hernandez and Real’s Xabi Alonso in the midfield. Messi led the attack, with Ronaldo and Atletico’s Radamel Falcao at his sides.

The team saw little change from the one created in 2011, with the only changes being Marcelo and Falcao for Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney.

Real Betis 1-0 Real Madrid: Shock Loss Could Cost Madrid the Title

Real Madrid’s chances at defending their La Liga title are slowly slipping away from them. This time, Real Betis delivered Madrid’s 3rd loss of the season. Only 1 goal was needed for Betis to overcome the incumbent La Liga champions, who have clearly had a bad season thus far.

Madrid’s defeat was their 1st in their previous 9 La Liga matches, while Betis recorded their 1st win in 3 games, their previous game ending in an embarrassing 5-1 defeat to Sevilla. Despite Real Madrid’s domination of the game, the 9 time Champions League winners were unable to penetrate Betis’ solid defense. Betis goalkeeper Adrian was clearly on top of his game, making multiple vital saves.

The first strike was made by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s left-footed shoot was easily punched by the goalkeeper. Madrid’s second good chance was taken by Germany international Sami Khedira, who’s ball went just wide of the goal.

It was Benat, though, who made Betis’ win possible. About 30 yards from the goal, Benat dribbled the ball down past Khedira and slotted it into the bottom-left corner, beyond Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas’ reach.

But it could have ended even worse for Los Blancos. Diving into the left side of the goal, Casillas managed a wonderful save following Castro’s powerful strike.

But after that small 10 minute period of Betis success, Mourinho’s men continued to enjoy most of the domination. Angel Di Maria created 2 great chances to equalize. Di Maria’s fired a shot from close range, which quickly Adrian fended off. Benzema caught the ball at his feet, but was unable to place it in the back of the net.

Benzema was sure he had achieved an equalizer after actually getting the ball past the goalkeeper a few minutes later, but it was ruled offside. Di Maria laid out yet another plan to score, but his narrow-angled shot went wide.

Madrid continued to pound Betis’ goal, but despite the numerous chances, all had went wide or were saved. Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored only once in Madrid’s last 5 matches, was unable to score for the team and was clearly unhappy with the results. There are many rumors surrounding Ronaldo such as a possible move to the Premier League next season or a change in nationality (to Spain) to boost his popularity and success.

Earlier today, Rayo Vallecano defeated Mallorca thanks to 2 late strikes in a match that was nothing short of awful. Valladolid just managed a 1-0 victory over Granada after Manucho scored the only goal of the game just after the hour mark. Malaga overcame Valencia (who came in 3rd last year) in their first league win in 5 matches with the score of 4-0, pushing them up into the top 4.

Real Betis took a much needed 3 points from the game, placing them in 5th with a total of 22 points. They currently harbor a 7-1-5 record and are right behind Malaga. Madrid was unable to gain any points from the match, keeping them in 3rd place with 26 points. They have a dissapointing 8-2-3 record, at this point one of their worst in decades, and are still separated by league leaders Barcelona by Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona has not played their 13th league match yet, so providing the Catalans triumph over Levante tomorrow, the gap between arch-rivals Real Madrid and themselves could rise from 8 to 11. This could be fatal to Real Madrid, for unless there is a major screw-up for Barcelona and a huge improvement on Madrid’s part, it is unlikely they will become La Liga champions this season.

Dortmund Takes Top Spot in Group D After Match-Up Drama

Group D of the UEFA Champions League clearly deserves the title “Group of Death.” It is compromised of Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Manchester City, and Ajax, all of whom won their respective leagues in the 2011-12 season. No one could have predicted that the 3rd fixture of Group D would end up as it did on Wednesday. The results were Ajax 3-1 Manchester City, and Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Real Madrid.

Manchester City, who were crowned champions of the Premier League just a few months back, suffered a terrible loss in Amsterdam Arena at their 3rd game in Group D. Ajax managed to put a stop to their losing streak in the group after beating City 3-1 in a match that was nothing short of a thriller.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini, who was clearly frustrated during the game, continually changed his defensive lineup. The squad had absolutely no shape or hope by the end of the match, and they did not present a single plan to top of the Eredivisie champions. On the other hand, Ajax looked organized and focused, doing a good job stopping City in the defensive end and making nice shots in the offensive. Both squads were nothing short of desperate for a victory, hoping to get themselves closer to the top of the group and be able to qualify for the Champions League knockout stage.

City applied lots of pressure on Ajax during the first half hour of the match. Samir Nasri finally awarded City the lead after striking home on the 22nd minute. James Milner knocked the ball toward the midfielder, who scored a powerful shot from about 10 yards away that Ajax goalkeeper Kenneth Varmeer could not reach. But unfortunately, the fact that City could not slot in another in their next 15 minutes of dominance had cost them the game. Right before half time, Siem De Jong of Ajax scored the equalizer after firing a beautiful shot past Hart.

When City walked on to the pitch after the break, it was as if a completely new team had entered. They had a few decent shots in the beginning of the second half, but Ajax began pounding the offensive half and testing City’s defenses every chance they had. On the 57th minute, Niklas Moisander made it 2-1 for Ajax after receiving a cross from Erikson, slotting it right past the goalkeeper. But for City, the worst was yet to come. Erikson recovered the ball at half field 11 minutes later and ran toward the opposition’s goal, with virtually no defenders trying to stop him. He made a shot, which was deflected off of Richards and Clichy but eventually made its way into the goal, ending the game at 3-1.

Ajax now has a total of 3 points in Group D, while Manchester City was able to obtain only 1 so far. The Blues’ hopes of reaching the knockout stage are now fairly slim after their 2 losses and 1 draw, and they must win 2 or even all 3 of the next games if they even want to have a chance at doing that.

At the same time, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid were battling it out at Signal Iduna Park in Germany. Dortmund managed to top the Spanish Giants after an unexpected 2-1 win in their first face-off in Group D, which clearly came as a shock to Madrid and Dortmund fans alike.

Madrid has lost 17 of its 24 games in Germany, and won only once against Bayer Leverkusen in 2000. This time, Madrid once again did not break their “curse.” Los Blancos had clearly dominated the first half, in terms of both possession and shots taken. Despite that, Dortmund was the first to score. On the 36th minute, Kehl was able to intercepts Pepe’s inaccurate pass and gave the ball to Robert Lewandowski, who made a powerful shot that just skimmed the inside of the right post. Dortmund wasn’t able to enjoy their lead for long, though, for Ronaldo managed to equalize just before the 40 minute mark. For his 5th goal in Champions League this season, Ronaldo timed Özil’s pass perfectly, which he let bounce once and then chipped right into the net.

There was clearly a change in the game once the second half began. Dortmund staged attack after attack, with some really close calls by Reus and Götze. Iker Casillas, the Madrid goalkeeper, was the one that finally made one of Dortmund’s attacks successful on the 64th minute. He punched Götze’s cross, which landed conveniently at Marcel Schmelzer’s feet, who’s shot flew just by the post and into the goal, making it 2-1. Not much action had taken place from that moment until the end of the game, finishing it off with a deserved win for Borussia Dortmund.

This game awarded 3 points to Die Borussen, who have a total of 7 points and are currently on top of the group. Real Madrid remains with 6 points, but moves down to second place, just 1 point behind the German club. After their first win, Ajax now stands in 3rd with a total of 3 points, while Manchester City drops to last with 1. Only half of the group stage games have been played so far, but it is unlikely for either Ajax or Manchester City to qualify for the knockout round. The only changes in standings will possibly occur between Dortmund and Madrid and/or Ajax and City.

Neither Side Emerges Victorious in El Clásico

At Camp Nou, both sides played a dramatic and exciting Clasico, a legendary game between Spain’s top two teams that fans all over the world must watch. Although Barcelona clearly had dominant possession of the ball, there was no way to separate either team throughout the duration of the game. The obvious stars of the match, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, scored two goals apiece in what was considered one of the best El Clasicos ever to be played. But nevertheless, the game ended in a draw.

Although this was only the 7th fixture this year, this game was said to be a season-deciding match for  Madrid due to their upsetting start and Barcelona’s previously 100% winning rate. Madrid was in desperate need of a win, and CR7 managed to award them a wonderful start as he scored in the 23th minute. Benzema made a short pass by a few Barcelona defenders inside the box, and Ronaldo did a good job controlling the ball as he squeezed it passed the goalkeeper and into the goal. Madrid had almost scored again, as Benzema had a clear chance to score but hit the post.

Barcelona was able to recover fairly quickly from Madrid’s goal, when Messi equalized the score at the 31 minutes. The Argentinian forward was fairly lucky to net the ball after Real Madrid defender Pepe was unable to put away the ball following a cross from Pedro. The ball managed to land right at Messi’s feet, and he delivered a fairly easy shot past Iker Casillas.

The second half started with two great chances from both sides, but neither Özil or Messi managed to score another goal. On the 52nd minute, Iniesta was sure to have been given a penalty after a foul from Pepe, but not even a foul kick was given by the referee and the game continued with a corner for Barcelona.

Messi then doubled Barça’s lead in a goal very similar to one he delivered in the 1st leg of the Spanish Supercup. In what was probably considered the goal of the match, Messi spun a free kick over the wall and into the top-right corner of the net, just beyond the goalkeeper’s reach.

This time, it was Los Blancos who responded to the goal. Just 3 minutes later, Özil devised an unstoppable attack that he and Ronaldo managed to carry out. He played a through ball to the Portuguese midfielder that the defenders were unable to fend off, and Ronaldo slipped it right into the goal.

Both teams had a few memorable chances to score a winner in the remainder of the match, but none were successful. On the 88th minute, a surprise shot from Montoya almost guaranteed Barcelona a victory, but it unfortunately hit the crossbar.

Barcelona maintained first place on the La Liga scoreboard, while Real Madrid rose to 5th (following Betis, Malaga, and Atletico Madrid). Barcelona currently has a record of 6-1-0 (total of 19 points) while Real Madrid’s record is 3-2-2 (11 points total). Both teams received 1 point from the game, and Barcelona still has a comfortable 8-point edge over Madrid. The former La Liga title-holders reminded everyone that they are still in running by avoiding defeat at Camp Nou.

Real Madrid Suffering Worst Start in Over a Decade

Real Madrid’s fourth league match against Sevilla ended in utter defeat on Saturday, when an early goal was able to deprive them of yet another win. They are currently 8 points behind the league leaders, Barcelona, who they were able to top just weeks before in their fight for the Supercup. Madrid’s defeat put them in 10th place on the La Liga table, while Sevilla rose to 3rd. This is their worst start to La Liga since the 2001-02 season.

Just 69 seconds after the start of the game, Piotr Trochowski managed to deliver the only goal of the match against the already downcast Real Madrid. He evaded Di Maria and headed an unstoppable high ball into the net after a corner kick. Madrid was lucky to dodge a red card though, when Higuain committed a pretty nasty foul against Navarro. Madrid failed to respond to the goal in the remainder of the 1st half; both of Ronaldo’s chances were saved by Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop.

“Right now I have no team. We are a team without concentration. At halftime, I changed two players and wanted to change six,” a frustrated Jose Mourinho said at the start of the second half. Karim Benzema and Luka Modric ran out on the pitch to replace Angel Di Maria and Mesut Özil in the hopes that the fresh players would change the course of the game.

Unfortunately for Madrid, the substitutes made no impact. Madrid had a few decent chances and were lucky enough that Negredo failed to double Sevilla’s lead when a fairly straightforward shot went just off target.

Following the game, Mourino congratulated Sevilla with their victory and said that Madrid got the prize they deserved. “For Sevilla, every ball was the last one in their life. They played with perfect aggression in everything. They wanted to play quickly, move the ball quickly. My team did it against Barcelona, and haven’t done it in any other game.”

As if they weren’t upset enough with their loss, arch-rivals Barcelona topped Getafe with a score of 4-1 on the same day, awarding them their 4th straight win and a total of 12 points on the La Liga table.

Adriano Correia began Barcelona’s series of goals after awarding them a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute. Messi added another 2 goals to their lead after being substituted in the 59th minute, the first of which was a penalty and the second one coming in just 4 minutes. Villa, who was also substituted in, topped it off with a goal at the start of stoppage time.

“The most important thing is we have 12 points from 12, we tried to control the game and we could have scored a few more. We’ll see tomorrow how long Puyol will be out, it’s a problem, he gives us a lot of organisation at the back and is very important for us.” said Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova.

There has also been speculation from the media that Cristiano Ronaldo may be searching for a better contract and wants to leave Real Madrid. He feels that he has not earned the respect he deserves from his teammates or his fans.

Portugal vs. Spain Recap

The Spanish rejoice after their win agianst Portugal when Cesc Fábregas makes the final penalty kick.

In many ways, the Portugal-Spain game was like the one between Italy and England. In both games, all 120 minutes passed without a single ball getting in the net. During the penalty shootout, both games ended in a 4-2 win for Italy and Spain. The last quarterfinal was mostly a one-sided game, with Italy having dominant possession of the ball and significantly more chances on goal. On the other hand, in the first semifinal game, the match was very well balanced, with more-or-less equal possession and about the same number of shots. Both teams in the Protugal-Spain game got some very nice chances. Spain had 57% possession of the ball and 11 shots (5 on goal), while Portugal had 43% possession and 10 shots (2 on goal). By the 30th minute, Spain had two great opportunities to get the ball in the net, but the shots from inside the penalty area by Álvaro Arbeloa and Andrés Iniesta went above the crossbar. In the second half, Cristiano Ronaldo had two chances, one from a free kick and one from inside the box; both sailed over the goal. Extra time was completely owned by the Spanish, with some nice breakaways and very close shots from Iniesta and Ramos. The first two PKs from Xabi Alonso and João Moutinho were saved. When it was time for Portugal’s 4th kick, Bruno Alves’ kick hit the post, giving Spain the victory after Cesc Fábregas’ goal. I feel that it was a big mistake by Portugal for not having Ronaldo shoot earlier in the PKs. Out of all the people on the team, they should have let the world-class forward kick the first penalty. He could have changed the entire game by making the first penalty and giving hope to the Portuguese. In the end, Spain finally sealed their well-deserved win, and they will play Italy in the Euro 2012 Final on July 1st.