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Great effort but no reward for FC Barcelona

A Cristiano Ronaldo goal in the first half of extra time decided the Spanish Cup final. Barça had plenty of chances, but Real Madrid finished up 1-0 winners.

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21 April 2011 03:30 AM

by

Miquel Pellicer

Barcelona (FCB).- It wasn\u2019t to be. FC Barcelona, the \u2018king of cups\u2019 failed to add an another title to the list after going down 1-0 on Wednesday night at Mestalla. Real Madrid beat FC Barcelona thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo goal in the 102nd minute to win his side the trophy for the 18th time. The Catalans improved as the game went on, which ended 0-0 after 90 minutes. But in the additional half hour, with some tire legs out there, more fortune in front of goal eventually tipped the balance in favour of the all-whites.


70% possession

In the first half, Real Madrid applied some tight man-marking to the Barça midfield. Such intense pressure made it extremely difficult for Barça to produce a consistent flow of attacking football. Despite enjoying 70% of the possession, Barça were finding it extremely difficult to translate any of that into serious pressure on Iker Casillas\u2019 goal.

Mourinho opted for a 4-5-1 system and tried to limit Barça\u2019s playing area as much as possible. Pepe and Khedira were given the job of closing down Xavi and Iniesta, and because of that, the passing lines just weren\u2019t appearing. So it was that Real Madrid had the first major chance in the 12th minute, a Cristiano Ronaldo strike that Adriano managed to clear from the danger zone.

Pinto does well

Madrid\u2019 strategy took a serious knock when Pepe was carded in the 26th minute for cutting down a Pedro break down the wing. Arbeloa would also have gone into Undiano Mallenco\u2019s book if the referee had spotted how the Madrid player trod on Villa. Instead, it was Pedro who was rather harshly cautioned in the 34th minute.

As the first half drew to a close, Pepe got Madrid\u2019s best chance of the half with a superb header that struck the Barça post, which had been so expertly defended by Pinto. The FCB keeper had also dealt with a Cristiano Ronaldo chance in the 32nd minute and had come off his line to intercept a number of long balls by Madrid.

Barça improve

The picture changed in the second half. Guardiola adjusted his plans and we finally got to see Barça\u2019s famous combination game. They looked more comfortable on the ball, and it took just five minutes for Pedro came close to scoring but he was denied by the ever-solid Casillas. Shortly after, the Canary Islander was on the end of a Lionel Messi assist and coolly slotted the ball home. However, Undiano Mallenco correctly observed that he had come from an offside position.

From that moment on, Messi and Iniesta enjoyed a series of chances, and Casillas was called upon time and time again to keep his side in it.

Barça dominating\u2026

This was the best of Barça, who created plenty of potentially dangerous penetrating runs, but chance after chance went begging. Meanwhile, Madrid were clearly beginning to flounder. After a great first half, Özil was barely getting a  touch of the ball, and was substituted by Adebayor, while Cristiano Ronaldo seemed to have disappeared altogether from the game.

But Barcelona went unrewarded for such a dominant second half display, and as the game ended goalless and headed for extra time, Madrid were about to show that goalscoring opportunities are ultimately no more than statistics. It\u2019s balls that go in the net that count.

\u2026 and Cristiano breaks the deadlock

In the 102nd minute, a one-two involving Marcelo and Di María ended with the Argentinian crossing to Cristiano Ronaldo, and the Portuguese striker found the target, just five minutes after a chance that fell to the same player had narrowly skimmed wide of the post. Following the goal, Barça never really found any opportunities to produce an equaliser, mainly because Madrid so effectively closed up shop to desperately cling into their lead.

Tonight Barça came home empty handed, but there will be other chances to celebrate titles. At Mestalla, it was not to be, but the team need not feel unfazed. They showed all of their usual effort, consistency and work-rate. This is not the time for reflecting on tonight\u2019s defeat. The league and the Champions League are still there and waiting. 

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  • Pinto congratulates Casillas at the end of the game (by FC Barcelona)

  • Pinto congratulates Casillas at the end of the game (by FC Barcelona)