Two weeks from today Mércia and I will be leaving for a 12 day vacation in Portugal. We're looking forward to seeing the sights, sampling the fine foods and wines; just not any Portuguese whines . . .
Yes, I believe that Pepe's sending off although his boots were high with studs up, was probably harsh - indeed, a better argument could have been made for sending off Emanuel Adebayor when got his yellow card - I believe this article sums it up well:
The last two Clasicos had seen real progress from the Whites in their bid to close the gap on a Barcelona side who took them apart at Camp Nou back in November. But whereas in the home league fixture they had nothing to really play for other than regaining some respect, and in the Copa del Rey final they had the ability to play off the back foot, tonight they had to win. They had to take the initiative in order to travel to Catalunya next Tuesday with a meaningful lead.
Instead Mourinho let old habits die hard. This was not the performance of his Inter side at San Siro at this stage last season. This instead was the display of a team who had been sent out with too little positive intent. With a place in the most prized game in modern football at stake, the ‘Special One’ did nothing special. He did nothing positive. In the last two meetings against Barcelona it could be claimed that Madrid had made real progress, but that was completely negated in the way the home side approached their latest battle.
But for Messi’s late double this was a game which maintained the viewers’ attention for little more than the sporadic pushing and shoving. While Barca knocked the ball about like Barca do, Madrid did nothing to leave their own stamp on the game. At one point Cristiano Ronaldo got so annoyed with how deep his team were defending he gesticulated wildly for them to help him out as he chased lost causes up front.
He spent the next 30 seconds sulking in the center circle. Mesut Ozil buzzed around and looked as though maybe he could be a difference-maker, but his reward was a spot on the bench for the second half. None of the home midfielders ever looked to really take the game on in the way that their opponents did. This was clearly part of the plan, but at no point did it look like working. It was only inevitable that ill-discipline followed.
This is anti-football. While I am a Barça fan, I used to have a lot of respect for José Mourinho, especially when he coached FC Porto, taking a team without stars to several league titles as well as wins in consecutive years of the then-named UEFA Cup and the Champions League. It seems, however, every move up he has made has resulted in an exponential increase in his ego. A little self-control never hurt.
Bobby McMahon made a good point on Fox Soccer Report just now: Marcelo's stomp on Pedro forced Pedro out of the game, but Ibrahim Afellay, Pedro's sub added a dimension of serious speed and skillfully set Messi up for the first goal.
Mesut Özil was invisible in this game.
Messi's second goal was the best illustration of the Madrid players' fatigue. It also showed just how thoroughly bankrupt Mourinho's tactics were for this game. If your opponent has nearly 80% of the possession, you'll end up spending a lot of energy either trying to dispossess them or keep them from advancing. That, to me seems to put a huge burden on your defenders and at least half of your midfield, making it difficult to counterattack when you do dispossess. Mourinho would probably go to his grave refusing to admit it, but he was outcoached. In addition to orchestrating dull football, he made but one substitution the entire game. There appeared to be zero interest on Mourinho's part in subbing in another attacker (Adebayor essentially seemed to be playing the role of enforcer) - and actually trying to win the game.
Mourinho also has a discipline problem. Sergio Ramos made a totally needless yellow card foul on Messi, insuring that he will watch and not play in the return match in Barcelona.
As for Manchester United v Schalke, there is precious little to say other than the following:
Manuel Neuer saved his team from an embarrassing result. He made eight saves. Phenomenal.
It's 11:59.59 on Schalke's Cinderella story.
This was a huge mismatch.
Schalke would have to score at least three goals and give up none at Old Trafford to move on, which also happens to be the same for Real Madrid. That won't happen - in either case.
Now for a couple of non-CL comments:
Kudos to Clint Dempsey, the career leader in goals for Fulham.
It has really sucked this year being an Arsenal fan and a good bit of the blame lies at Arsene Wenger's feet. He needed to get a central defender and a reliable holding midfielder. He also needs to rid himself of this obsession with getting rid of field players when they reach thirty; the most flagrant example of which is Gilberto Silva.