The Bernabeu was ready to witness another clasico and ended up watching another home team horror show courtesy of Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho.
Fielding still, yet, another ragtag roster that included players who have not seen the light of day all season long, Mourinho managed to outdo even himself by replacing a healthy, willing, and able Sergio Ramos in the middle of the Real back line. Yes, that same Sergio who disavowed saying that if Mou remained as coach he, Iker Casillas, and many other Real players would leave. The same Sergio who Real Madrid President, Florentino Perez, assured us had not had a row with his coach. It must have simply been Ramos’ turn on the bench, during the Spanish Clasico.
In a game where Cristiano Ronaldo missed several goal scoring chances, Xavi hit the crossbar off a free kick, and Lionel Messi was shadow of himself, it was left to Cesc Fabregas to open the scoring at the 50th minute. It was a perfect clearance-ricochet of a thru pass from Messi that found Cesc running straight down the middle of the Real defense to catch up with the platter service and slot in an easy point blank goal. Fabregas did not hesitate to score, though as he caught up to the pass he seemed to be wondering why the middle was so open.
The game began with even play and the same rhythm of the past several clasicos under the two clubs’ current coaching. Real put the pressure on Barca from the opening whistle only to tire half-way through the first half and cede the Catalans their even share of chances. The second half then produced the necessary fireworks to put the 0-0 score line in jeopardy, and chances went begging on both sides.
But what quickly degenerated into another rough and tumble game with yellow cards galore eventually ended up in a tie at the 81st minute. It came thanks to the prowess of that well-known goal scorer Raphael Varane, scoring his first goal of the season off a terrific header. It was Mesut Ozil who found Varane with a beautiful left-footed cross to–agonizingly for the Real fans–seal the shared-points match.
Yet, with an away goal, and an away tie, Barcelona are now in the driver’s seat come February and the second leg at the Camp Nou. Many will have figured that was the ultimate result of the match.
What must truly rankle the rank and file Madridistas by now, is the obvious–the simple and now evident fact that Mourinho is so self-absorbed that he would jeopardize winning the only remaining domestic trophy his team can compete for in order to get even with his locker room detractors. There was no reason for anything but an all out effort to win at home in this two-legged match and the coach’s roster selection made clear he simply could not have cared less.
One can only surmise that long-term business decisions are what is keeping Perez from acting, because his tenure might otherwise be as precarious as Mou’s.