Al-Ahram Weekly Online   24 - 30 November 2005
Issue No. 770
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

The enemy applauded

Click to view caption
FC Barcelona Brazilian player Ronaldinho scores against Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas

BARCELONA have moved to the top of the Spanish league (La Liga) table after an astounding 3-0 win over arch-rivals Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Lionel Messi set up the first goal in the 15th minute. Under pressure from three defenders on the edge of the area, he slipped the ball to the advancing Samuel Eto'o, who surged through the pack to toe-poke the ball past Iker Casillas for 1- 0. Real responded by passing the ball around intricately in midfield without really creating any worthwhile opportunities, while at the other end Casillas was earning his keep, pulling off fine saves to deny Messi twice, Eto'o and Ronaldinho.

The second came just before the hour mark when Ronaldinho picked up the ball in his own half, skipped past Sergio Ramos' lunge, ghosted past Ivan Helguera and slotted the ball past an undefended Casillas for 0-2. Ronaldo was unlucky to be ruled offside when he put the ball into the back of the net after a fine through ball from Zinedine Zidane in the 69th minute, and Michel Salgado forced a save out of Victor Valdés shortly afterwards, but this only seemed to further inspire the irrepressible Ronaldinho. He responded with another brilliant individual effort in the 79th minute that won the generous admiration of the home fans, who awarded him the very rare, but deserved, accolade of a standing ovation. Surging past Ramos on the left, he switched feet to slot home past Casillas, who had no time to react.

The game petered out to its inevitable conclusion in front of an increasingly depleted home crowd who, based on this evidence at least, must be resigning themselves by now to a season fighting for Champions League qualification with the title seemingly destined to return to their bitter Catalan rivals.

Although Real coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo was able to count on his full array of injured stars, some of them -- most notably Helguera, Zidane and Ronaldo -- seemed to be struggling for fitness, and he will be concerned to have seen Raśl Gonzalez limp off in the 58th minute with a twisted knee. Although his side showed the occasional glimpse of their undoubted vast potential, the truth is that Real Madrid were outplayed in nearly every department, and the visitors' massively talented offensive players had a field day against a frail Real back four, who were saved from further humiliation by Casillas, who had a superb game despite the scoreline.

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