Big hand for Barca's little hand


SPANISH LA LIGA: SID LOWEon how what pleased fans most about Monday’s drubbing of Real was they did it their way

RIGHT ABOUT the time Andres Iniesta was posting pictures in his pants, in a warehouse somewhere they were already rushing off a batch of T-shirts to go with the Barca tupperware, Barca knives and Barca tool set. Blue and yellow and yours for just €9.95. On the back it reads: “great theatre”. On the front it does not read anything much. Just the dateline and the score from Monday’s clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid: Camp Nou, 29/11/2010. 5-0. And, above that, a giant yellow hand.

Jeffren’s late goal made little difference, but it made all the difference. Madrid were already being humiliated. Jose Mourinho, already suffering his worst ever defeat as a coach, felt “impotent”, barely moving as fans chanted for him to “come out the dugout! Jose, come out the dugout!”.

It was already 4-0 and into added time and Almeria’s Henok Goitom, thrashed 8-0 by Barcelona last weekend, had long-since noted: “I know how you feel: you just want the game to finish.” But the game had not finished, not yet. The fifth goal had to arrive and when it did, it mattered. It turned a bano – a bath, a drubbing – into a manita, a little hand. A goal for every finger. The most perfect of beatings.

Especially for Barcelona. Because if manitas are symbolic in Spain in Barcelona there is something even more emblematic about them. Last week, after that win in Almeria, Cristiano Ronaldo had shrugged: “I’d like to see them get eight on Monday.” They could have done and eight would have been great, but somehow five, while fewer, feels more fitting.

When El Mundo Deportivo called it a Super Manita, everyone in Catalunya knew what they were measuring it against. This was the fifth time Barcelona had defeated Real Madrid 5-0. Beyond 1934-35 and 1944-45, two linger in the memory: the 1973 team led by Johan Cruyff the player and the 1994-95 Dream Team led by Cruyff the coach. No one could watch last night and not recall Cruyff. Or Romario. Just in case, television programmes drew on the archive. Two epoch-defining victories have become three.

Madrid had, Mourinho insisted, “been to blame” too. And as he pointed out: “Last season I lost here with Inter before returning for the semi-final. We were the ones who reached the final – they watched it on television.”

It is as if there is a checklist of things this Barcelona side have to do to emulate their predecessors, to prove their worth. And beating Madrid 5-0 is one of them.

It was not just that Barcelona beat Madrid, or even that they hammered them. It was not just that they defeated Mourinho – although they loved that – and a starting XI that cost €292 million. Not that they defeated a team that had been unbeaten. It was not even that Guardiola completed a manita of his own – he has now won all five clasicos as coach, with a barely plausible aggregate score of 17-2. It was that they did it their way.

Even goalkeeepr Victor Valdes, true to Cruyff’s great obsession, was playing the ball out short. The second goal came after more than 20 passes and a minute of uninterrupted possession to a soundtrack of oles.

If Barcelona scored from their first four shots on target – Messi’s fantastic chip against a post counts as off target – it is because they did not shoot until putting the ball into the net with just another pass.

Barcelona battered Madrid. Not some team of donkeys: Madrid. Only battered is not really the word. Barcelona killed them softly, with precision not power. As Ramon Besa wrote in El Pais: “Goals fall at Camp Nou like autumn leaves: naturally, beautifully and serenely.”

It was the control that was stunning, the bewilderment felt by Madrid. “The worst thing isn’t losing, the worst thing is not having a clue what’s going on,” sobbed AS’s mad Madridista Tomas Roncero.

Barcelona completed 636 passes, Madrid 279. Xavi completed 114 of 117 passes. It was the sixth time he has gone over 100. Busquets and Iniesta moved the ball with a pace and precision, And then there was Messi. He did not score for the first time in 10 games. Or do one of those runs. But he gave two perfect assists and laid bare the fallacy that Ronaldo is a more “complete” player

Guardian Service

Mourinho banned

REAL Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has been given a two-match ban for improper conduct by Uefa after allegations that two of his players deliberately got sent off in a Champions League match against Ajax Amsterdam.

Uefa also handed out fines related to events in the November 23rd Group G game including €120,000 for Real, €40,000 for Mourinho and lower amounts for players Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas and Jerzy Dudek. The second match of Mourinho’s European ban has been deferred for a probationary period of three years.