|First Division - Day 12|
Real Madrid 0 - Barcelona 3
Michel Salgado, Sergio Ramos, Iván Helguera, Roberto Carlos; Beckham,
Pablo García (Baptista 67'), Zidane; Raúl (Guti 58'); Robinho,
Team changes: Madrid: Iván Helguera, Pablo García, Zidane, Ronaldo for Pavón, Woodgate, Diogo, Guti / Barça: Van Bronckhorst, Edmilson, Deco, Messi for Sylvinho, Motta, Van Bommel, Giuly.
Barcelona put in a magnificent performance to beat Real Madrid 0-3 in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Saturday evening, a result which took the Catalans to the top of the table, ahead of Osasuna on goal difference. With the exception of the injured Woodgate and Van Bommel, both managers had full squads to choose from. Luxemburgo brought back Ronaldo, Zidane and Helguera after their lay-offs, with Baptista on the bench alongside Guti, who was kept in reserve after picking up a knock in training. Pablo García also came back after a one match ban, despite a gruelling (and disappointing) trip to Australia for Uruguay's World Cup play-off.
Frank Rijkaard surprised everyone by including 18 year old Messi in his starting line up, with Márquez dropping back and Edmilson preferred to Motta in central midfield. Eto'o had been the subject of much speculation during the week after his insults to his old club in Barcelona's victory celebrations last season, but although he was booed by the crowd, he didn't seem to let it affect him. The Camerooni striker was in fact the first to cause any problems for Casillas, outstripping his marker in the tenth minute to pick up Ronaldinho's long pass, but not finding enough space to beat the keeper. Five minutes later though he did get his name on the scoreboard, taking over from Messi as he ran at the defence and poking a shot into the back of the net.
Up to that point only Robinho had created any danger at the opposite end, but after the goal it was one way traffic as Barça looked to extend their lead. Deco shot wide, Messi had a goal disallowed for offside and had another effort brilliantly saved by Casillas, Ronaldinho got past the defence but was eventually closed down and Eto'o brought another first class save out of the keeper near to the break.
A few minutes after the restart Eto'o was tripped from behind by Robaerto Carlos, but referee Iturralde González didn't see it. Robinho also had a penalty appeal waved away, and Madrid suffered a serious blow when Raúl hopped off with what looked like a serious knee injury. The visitors kept up the pressure though, and Casillas made another fine save from Messi. And a couple of minutes later they were two up, a defensive clearance finding Deco, who slipped the ball through to Ronaldinho. The Brazilian star was still in his own half, but he ran on past Sergio Ramos and Iván Helguera, and with Roberto Carlos approaching he fired a shot inside the near post.
Madrid finally started to get a couple of attacks together after that, Robinho putting a dangerous cross which nobody got on the end of, Ronaldo getting the ball in the net only for the strike to be ruled out for offside, Zidane and Baptista also both being pulled up for offside when free on goal and Salgado at last bringing a save out of Víctor Valdés. But with a quarter of an hour to go Ronaldinho picked up the ball on the left flank once again, and he glided past Ramos before shooting across Casillas and in to the net from a wide angle.
The cameras cut to the crowd, where the Real Madrid fans were actually applauding the man expected to be awarded the golden boot again this year, the first time a Barcelona player had received an accolade from the Bernabeu since Maradona scored there some 22 years ago. The match was over, and the fans who stayed to the end turned to the directors' box crying out for changes. Madrid are still third in the table pending Sunday's games, but at this rate it looks like they may be in for another trophy-less season. Luxemburgo is already looking over his shoulder.