MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Pepe (R) of Real Madrid stands besides Daniel Alves of Barcelona after he fouled him during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 27, 2011 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
A win for Barcelona but, hardly a victory for football.
After watching the first leg of Champions League Semi-Final between the two Spanish giants and fierce rivals that is the only conclusion I could make.
Neither team played the way they usually do, both teams employed "tactics" that robbed the match of it's quality and class.
There were a few nice passages of play by both teams and no doubt the two goals by Lionel Messi were brilliant but I feel the match, as a whole, was marred by the amount of diving and the excessive fouling.
The fouling and diving caused so many stoppages that it killed the game. And what resulted from them was a lot of Real and Barca players trying to influence the referee.
I've heard from quite a few Barca fans who said that they were "proud" of the way Barcelona played. One cited it as Barca leaving nothing to chance. After the loss to Madrid in the Copa also fueled by the pre-match comments of their manager felt they had something to prove and defend. Some may feel that they did what they had to inorder to keep Madrid from having a moment to breathe but what they did do by all of the play acting and trying to manipulate the ref was call into question the integrity of the club.
FC Barcelona is the best team in the world, surely they can beat Real Madrid without resorting to petulance to keep Madrid out of the game. To be honest Barca did not play as strongly as they could or they way they usually do, there was an unusual amount of misplaced passes, many of shots came from outside the 18 yard box, and we saw more long balls played by Barca than usual.
Some say one team came to play football and one did not. Yes Madrid defended strongly and had focus on not conceding, but what do you expect? When playing against a very strong attacking side, the strongest in the world, it only makes sense to have a good focus on defense. If you look at the statistics Real Madrid had only 2 fewer shots on goal than Barca while holding only 28% of possession. Madrid also committed fewer fouls than Barca.
I'm not saying that Madrid were the innocent ones because they too share the blame for turning this into a diving/fouling contest. They too have players who are known to make a meal of a challenge.
It's a shame that we couldn't come away from this match talking about how great the football was. Clasico has come to mean controversy and with each passing one it exposes how ugly each team can get. It was all topped off with Mourinho's outrageous post-match rant/conspiracy theories.
As much as I love attacking play and hate the "park the bus" tactic I can hardly call this a victory for football. On the whole there was very little football played by either team just a load of petulance. Messi had two fantastic goals but I feel his moments of brilliance were overshadowed by the idiocy on the pitch from everyone. Also Mourinho's idiocy on the touchline and Pinto's in the tunnel.
In my humble opinion, cheating is far more "anti-football" than parking the bus.