By Shane Thomas
BARCELONA 5-0 REAL MADRID
Barcelona put on a five-star show in the Camp Nou last night to seize control of the title race in Spain. Real Madrid's heretofore unbeaten league run came to an end in the midst of one of the finest performances in Barcelona's history.
But let's be clear. This was not a defeat for Madrid. It was a humiliation. An annihilation. A massacre. Many people (me included) felt that this was Real Madrid's time. But Barcelona stopped the clocks in dramatic fashion winning 5-0 with a display of skill, technique and ruthlessness. But most of all, it was a performance of malevolence.
The first cracks in the Barca empire have been beginning to show. A shock defeat at home to Hercules, a seeming over-reliance on the spark plug that is Lionel Messi, rumours of troubling debt & an ever increasing chance that coach Pep Guardiola is in his final days at the Camp Nou. They took all the criticism that has been thrown at them, all those doubts, every last utterance from every naysayer, and unleashed it in a detonation of vicious brilliance upon their most bitter of rivals.
Indeed it was a clasico. No lover of football could fail to marvel at the level of beauty and inspiration conjured from the Barcelona cauldron of excellence.
But for Real Madrid, it was their worst nightmare made manifest. They were outthought, outwitted, outmaneuvered & outmuscled. When was the last time you could say that about a side managed by Jose Mourinho? No, me neither.
And yes, I did say Barcelona outmuscled Madrid. People often forget that away from their speed and incisiveness on the ball, Barca are one of the best sides in the world defensively. Guardiola instructs his team to press the ball high up the pitch, forcing their opponents into being careless in possession, and only serving to give the ball right back to the Catalans. Yesterday they pressed with a ravenous zeal, with often more than one player hunting down any Madrid man who dared to try and attack. It was quite apt that Real were wearing their traditional white, as in both attack and defence, Barcelona were like a pack of wolves tearing away at a helpless flock of lambs, licking the bones dry and then laughing maniacally as they admired their handiwork.
Barcelona players and fans alike held up five fingers to signify their triumph. Make no mistake, Barcelona didn't want to beat Madrid. They wanted to hurt them. And I don't mean the kind of behaviour displayed by Sergio Ramos, as he petulantly kicked Messi and was rightly sent-off in stoppage-time. I mean the kind of punishment that leaves mental scars rather than physical ones. It will be fascinating to see how Real respond, as it may take some time for these wounds to heal.
Sometimes in sport, hatred and revenge can bring about greatness. And while Barcelona were motivated by emotions of the ugliest kind, it inspired them to put on the most beautiful display of destruction I have ever seen.
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