Barcelona and Real Madrid played the first of three El Classico cup ties on the evening of Wednesday 20th April 2011, as the sides battled out the Spanish Copa Del Rey Final in Valencia, with a result which surprised many who believed Barcelona to be the best of the two sides.
In as absorbing a 0-0 first 90 minutes as you could hope to see, Real clung on at times against Bareclona’s trademark possession football, and will be highly thankful to their ever-great goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, who was outstanding in producing a number of magnificent saves throughout the match.
Barcelona had the ball in the net with 20 minutes remaining, only for the thankful Real defence to look up and see a linesman’s flag for offside.
Then Casillas produced stunning saves from both Messi and Iniesta to keep the scoreline at 0-0 and force extra time.
As extra time wore on, the athleticism and incredible skill of Cristiano Ronaldo began to come to the fore, and the World’s most famous of footballers really began to tear his markers to pieces as the clock ticked beyond 100 minutes.
It was to be Ronaldo who settled things, showing why he is probably the most complete player in the World, as he leapt high to power home a header from an inch-perfect Di Maria cross just before the end of the first period of extra time.
Barca then looked rattled for the first time in the match, and Real, highly organised, as all Mourinho teams are, then retreated to a bank of four behind a bank of five, with just Adebayor and the powerful runs-from-midfield of Ronaldo offered in attack.
Barca never got through this rearguard, and looked to tire considerably. Indeed, it was Real who could easily have added to their 1-0 score-line as Adebayor was denied late on by Pinto, the ageing stand-in Barcelona goalkeeper, who had already made a tremendous stop from a deflected Di Maria effort earlier in the extra period.
The final whistle blew soon after Adebayor’s effort was saved, giving Real Madrid the bragging rights over their fierce rivals, along with the 2011 Copa Del Rey trophy.
These two sides meet in just one weeks time, for the opening leg of their UEFA Champions League Semi Final on 27th April: as a curtain raiser, the Copa Del Rey Final was perfect, with both sides showing great quality. Barcelona still looked the more dangerous side, but, with players like Casillas and Sergio Ramos – who was excellent – at the back, and the attacking abilities of Ronaldo and the powerful Adebayor ably assisted by the solid wing-play of Di Maria, Real Madrid have more than enough to offer in response to Barca’s almost ludicrously talented midfield trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi.
Its 1-0 Real Madrid in more ways than one – the final two acts in this three act play are yet to hit the biggest stage.