Coming into the always anticipated Clasico, Barcelona's fans prepared a beautiful mosaic for Pep Guardiola's men to be even more inspired before the kickoff against their bitter rivals, Real Madrid. The mosaic read, "Som i Serem" (We are and always will be), signifying that the team has their faithful fans behind them 100% no matter what the final result came to be.
Expecting a similar line-up from other big matches, Guardiola flipped the switch and decided to put his confidence on his two young cantera players: Cristian Tello and Thiago Alcantara. This seemed unusual because the match was above and beyond important and experienced players should have been started. Both Tello and Thiago have barely been starting this season (Thiago more than Tello), but do not have nearly the same experience in big matches as Xavi Hernandez, who broke the record for most Clasicos played today.
Pique was also absent in the line-up. After an injury in La Liga match against Getafe, the former Manchester United player did not see action both on Saturday against Levante, and on Wednesday against Chelsea in the Champions League. His seemingly unimportant injury puzzled fans as he did not see action today against Real Madrid. Towards the end of the match, he warmed up, but was never put into the match as his partner Carles Puyol attempted to control the defense on his own.
The first goal silenced the Camp Nou in the 15th minute from a corner kick. After an unsolid defending by Adriano, Pepe soared over the defender as Victor Valdes failed to grab a hold of the ball and left captain Puyol to attempt to save the day. However, Puyol failed to clear the ball in time and before he knew it, German international, Sami Khedira, put the ball in the back of the net. Madrid now had the advantage after a strong break away and a successful corner kick, but Barcelona was not going to give up just yet.
The blaugranas continued to have possession of the ball during the rest of the first half, but the merengues seemed to respond better and stronger on breakaways. Half time rolled around as the Camp Nou was seemingly quiet and overcome with concern. Changes had to be made, and an always strong bench for Pep's side was hopefully going to do the job.
As the second half whistle blew, the blaugrana supporters became louder and louder to try to inspire their team. With better passes and first touches than the first half, Barcelona began to create clearer plays and more dangerous occasions. An extremely clear opportunity came when a solid pass from Andres Iniesta was put through the defenders for Tello, who unfortunately failed to succeed in giving life to his teammates. As Barcelona failed to have the upper hand, Madrid kept pressuring the opposing side.
As the 70th minute rolled around, Guardiola still had made no changes to his side that was clearly struggling. Finally, Guardiola decided to make a change and took out Xavi, replacing him with Alexis Sanchez. Strangely enough, Xavi was taken out of the game after having a consistent match, however, is Guardiola trying to rest him for Tuesday's match against Chelsea in the Champions League semifinal? The switch seemed to work, at first, as Sanchez scored in one of the first plays he was involved with, giving Barcelona a glimmer of hope.
The joy was short lived, however, as Madrid was not about to give up that easily. With yet another strong breakaway, Cristiano Ronaldo was left free to receive a strong pass from the right side to then break right, and put the ball right past Valdes and scored the winning goal for the whites. Ronaldo is usually the one that struggles to appear in important matches such as this one, but showed the complete opposite today and seemed to pass on his bad luck to Lionel Messi. Messi is usually the protagonist for the cules, but managed to only create a couple of plays and show frustration across his face. With a sad little kid look on his face, Messi was discouraged after today's match, but will hopefully spring back from a disappointing match and turn that around against Chelsea on Tuesday.
Solid performances were also seen for Barcelona, however, not just disappointing ones. Time and time again, Javier Mascherano has been able to prove himself worthy and perform consistently throughout the season. His defending was solid as he stayed with his mark the whole match and also participated in important plays throughout the match. Against Chelsea on Wednesday, he started and did not fail to show that Guardiola's decision to start him was not a mistake, and will surely see a lot of action on Tuesday.
After the 1-1 became a painful 1-2, Barcelona fought to create a couple of more dangerous plays and kept possession, but failed to find the back of the net. As the minutes dwindled down, Barcelona saw their possible 4 in-a-row La Liga wins go down the drain. As the final whistle blew, a silent Camp Nou was overcome with sadness as their anthem played in the background.
The blaugranas now stand 7 points behind the merengues, who knew that a victory today was extremely important and spirits as of now are probably down but Guardiola assures that, "right now we are sad, but we will recover for Chelsea." The refereeing was fair, and no significant dirty fouls were seen from Madrid. All that Barcelona can do now is focus on the Champions League and have solid performances for the rest of La Liga season. All is not lost, anything can happen in the next 4 matches left in La Liga. Unfortunately for Barcelona, that is how football works, you can have everything in your favor, but along the road a few bumps of bad luck can interfere and cause for important points to slip through your fingertips, like sand in your hand.
Photos courtesy of Sport.esBack to the Soccer Newsfeed