El Clasico: Could have been better, but draw will do

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Barcelona achieved a valuable 1-1 draw against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the away leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals. Cesc Fabregas scored the goal for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 62 percent of possession and attempted 10 shots, four of them on target and one that hit the crossbar.

- Hunter: A festival of football in Madrid

Whether you support Barcelona, Real Madrid or any other club, there is simply no excuse for football lovers to miss El Clasico.

The anticipation was as huge as ever, with the media constantly publishing stories that may incline those neutrals to support either of the two giants for at least those incredibly brief 90 minutes of thrilling football. I couldn't be happier to say that, once again, El Clasico has gifted fans with yet another glorious battle of the highest calibre.

It was an incredibly intense match which didn't disappoint. As is traditional in recent times, Barcelona had the overall control of the game while Real waited for their chance to counterattack in full force via their speedy, determined forwards.

From a Blaugrana point of view, the final result is perhaps slightly disappointing because of the fact that Barcelona had a couple of clear chances to win it, leaving the tie wide open. Having said that, the Catalans at least have the consolation of having scored the all-important away goal; the one small factor that may end up unbalancing the tie once the return match is over.

Sure, Barcelona had a couple of clear chances to kill the game and potentially seal qualification, but let's stop for a moment and think of the magnitude of the challenge that was faced.

While I understand that some fans may be disappointed by the fact this match wasn't won despite dominating for long periods, the fact that the Blaugrana can face one of the most expensive squads in football history in front of over 80,000 hostile fans and come out with a positive result is remarkable in its own right and has to be valued as an achievement.

As this away match at the Bernabeu showed, one thing is non-negotiable in the Barcelona book of football: The style, the ambition to win regardless of the rival, the constant drive for raise to the occasion, the players' pride and desire to stay faithful to the club's traditional approach.

Pass, move, think, pass, rotate, dribble, pass, look for an opening, open up, pass, look for an opening, take a risk, look for a shot, choose the best option. Easier said than done, that's for sure, but a testament to the non-negotiable nature of the Blaugrana philosophy.

The Camp Nou awaits, and believe me, there won't be one soul in that stadium who wouldn't give their lives to witness Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and the rest of this golden generation beat their arch-rivals and progress to the Copa del Rey final.

Player Ratings (0-10; 10=best)

Pinto (6) -- Preferred over Victor Valdes for yet another crucial Copa del Rey match, continuing with the debatable tradition that Pep Guardiola brought to the club during his time as manager. I felt he could have done better to block Varane's header but, other than that, solid.

Dani Alves (7) -- Constantly joining attack, beating his markers with speedy runs and always offering an extra wide option. Tracked back fairly well, sharper than usual defensively.

Carles Puyol (7) -- He may not be the tallest or the most skilled player in this Barcelona team, but the eternal captain always manages to make his presence felt and raises to the biggest occasions. Faultless once again, a commanding defensive presence.

Gerard Pique (8) -- Led the way with impressive tackles which, ultimately, ensured Pinto was only beaten once. Unfortunately, this essential defensive plays regularly get overlooked, with flashy goals or clear missed chances grabbing the headlines instead. Tremendous effort.

Jordi Alba (6) -- Courageous performance from the Catalan left back, who added both in attack and defensively. I felt he could have finished a couple of goal-scoring chances a bit more calmly, but did well enough to find himself in those positions after constantly running from deep.

Sergio Busquets (7) -- A professional display despite the obvious difficulty in facing Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Mostly able to intercept counterattacks with quick interceptions, then build forwards with well-thought passes.

Xavi Hernandez (7) -- The engine that kept the Barcelona machine moving. His influence ensured open players received the ball in the exact, precise moment they needed it. Could have unbalanced the game with his classy free kick early in the game.

Cesc Fabregas (8) -- Rotated constantly in front of the Real Madrid back line, dropped into midfield to combine when needed, created spaces for others with quick triangular passing sequences. Found the net with a determined strike which could be worth its weight in gold.

Lionel Messi (7) -- Often defended by up to four players, which made it incredibly difficult for him to find many openings or run into space. Despite this fact, didn't give up in his constant attempt to participate and involve others around him, as evidenced by his assist for the only Barcelona game of the match.

Pedro Rodriguez (5) -- Another valuable performance which helped the team defensively whenever possession was lost. Would have loved to see him bury his very clear chance during the second half, but unfortunately his shot went inexplicably wide.

Andres Iniesta (9) -- Man of the Match -- I sometimes wonder whether Iniesta plays the same game as the rest of us mortals. His ball control is just mind-blowing and, to be honest, I'm struggling to remember him losing any balls in the whole match tonight -- or the whole season, for that matter. As always, made his teammates look better around him and was in constant quest of that valuable winner.

Substitutes: Alexis Sanchez (5), Thiago Alcantara (6)

Have your say

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