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A Special lesson

sports Updated: Dec 01, 2010 00:31 IST
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José Mourinho always said that his side would lose one day but he did not expect to lose like this – not after enjoying the greatest start of any coach in Real Madrid's history. His team, so impermeable before, were punctured.

Five times. They were sunk. A 5-0 victory for Barcelona was described by the Madrid coach as a "historically bad result" for his club – it was the worst defeat he has suffered in his career.

The final whistle arrived amid cheers and olés, plus boos for Sergio Ramos, sent off at the death for a wild scythe at Leo Messi. At last Mourinho could move from the bench where he had been sitting powerless.

The chant going round was inspired by Mourinho's infamous accusation that Messi had play-acted during a Chelsea-Barcelona Champions League clash: "Mourinho, go to the theatre!" He might have wished he had. By his own admission, he had felt "impotent".

There was little comfort in the fact that this Barcelona team are genuinely special. Pep Guardiola's side were imperious, their control breathtaking.

Speaking of genuinely special, if this was indeed the game that decided the best player in the world, there can be only one answer. Messi failed to score for the first time in 10 matches but his performance – like those of Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández and Sergio Busquets – was sublime.

There were fewer brilliant dribbles, less fantasy but there was a stunning assuredness and impeccable precision in the passing. This was the Messi who controls the game and then decides it.

But it was Xavi, the ideologue behind Spain's World Cup success, who opened the scoring after nine minutes. Messi, who spent the match dropping from his 'false No 9' role into midfield, content to play simple passes and keep the ball moving, combined with Xavi.

The Argentinian then swept the ball out to Iniesta. His pass into the box found Xavi running though and as the ball bounced fortuitously off his heel, Xavi nudged a volley past Iker Casillas. It was the perfect demonstration of Barcelona's football. Short, clever passing, a man always in support.
Barcelona did things that would be risky for any other side, playing out of the tightest corners. Soon, Camp Nou was roaring olés as their team swept the ball about.

Madrid had little of the ball but when they did recover possession they broke rapidly and with murderous intent. Ronaldo saw a shot flash wide, a free-kick dip past the post and just before half-time he appealed for a penalty. The referee, Iturralde González, felt Ronaldo had looked for the penalty; replays suggested he may have found it. In the end it was academic and there could be no complaints.

Within two minutes of the start of the second half, Messi had a goal disallowed for offside. Barcelona would not be denied. Messi set David Villa twice in the second half and the striker made no mistake.

Barcelona added a fifth in stoppage time when Jeffren finished off Bojan Krkic's cross to complete a miserable night for Mourinho's team.