What a difference a day makes. Twenty-four little hours that brought rain
where there was sunshine and flowers, 24 little hours to witness two contrasting
faces of Spanish football - one George Clooney, the other David Mellor licking
piss off a stinging nettle - 24 little hours to swing from the life-affirming
beauty of Barcelona's wonder goal to the awful knot-up-that-noose ugliness of
Real Madrid in Valencia. Two faces, two identities, two approaches, one result.
Twelve weeks into the season and the Big Two(TM) are just three points apart.
Three points and a world.
The same world that adorns the cover of the Catalan
daily Sport: a huge satellite photo of the earth, swirling with clouds and
embossed with a cut-out-and-stick Ronaldinho, bottom in the air, legs over his
head, gnashers popping out at angles like Flakes from a cone, the ball flying
from his foot and into the net as he scores what the paper declares, "the most
beautiful goal in the world". Which might be pushing it a teensy bit - after
all, it was Pascal Cygan marking him - but it certainly was pretty special. Just
ask the man who conceded it. "I dived for the sake of diving; I had no idea
where the ball was," admitted goalkeeper Mariano Barbosa. "Still, at least I'm in the photo, eh?"
Well, quite. And what a photo. Saturday night, FC Barcelona vs Villarreal. Barça lead 3-0 with three minutes to go, Eidur Gudjohnsen has, as Marca puts it, "proven that he's no longer Icelandic but a fully-fledged Spaniard, a veritable Sammy Swimming Pool" by "winning" the penalty which Ronaldinho scores to make it 1-0; he has added a second himself with a header, and translucent playmaker Andres Iniesta has scored an acrobatic third to cap another brilliant display. Then Xavi Hernández collects the ball on the right, looks up and clips a cross into the area. Edmílson sees it drop towards Ronaldinho, and whispers to himself: "Go on, Ronnie - head it
But rather than head it, Ronaldinho controls the ball on his chest, turns his back to goal, leaps into the air and hits a Chilean, as they say in Spain. Not punching Pinochet - although God knows he'd deserve it - but overhead kicking it past Barbosa. "It was a historic goal," beamed president Joan Laporta. "Priceless! It was like a computer game," screamed Marca, conjuring up deeply unpleasant images of big-bellied geeks with perspiration pouring through their pants, "somewhere a programmer starts to sweat; he has to turn this into a video game." AS, meanwhile, lauded it as the act of "a genius who is impossible not to love," and a million commentators shouted gol a billion times. As for the Camp Nou fans, they went bonkers and so did Dinho. Out came the hankies, off came the shirt and out, inevitably, came the yellow card - an act of pointless pettiness to sully a brilliant goal.
And yet referee Pérez Lasa's jobsworth behaviour as Dinho ran round the pitch doing a Giggs was not the only cloud, nor the weekend's worst, most mean-spirited moment. Hell, even the ref who broke the world record by showing five red cards in 12 minutes, culminating with the sending off of Almería goalkeeper Sander Westerveld, was not the worst. Because worse still was Real Madrid in Valencia on Sunday night. If Barcelona reminded why you fell in love with football, 24 little hours later Madrid showed you why you could be forgiven for shacking up with someone else instead.
It was Madrid vs Valencia
at Mestalla. It was a big, big game, the biggest of the weekend. It was a clash
of the titans and it was set up to be a beauty. Instead, Valencia blew it again
(and again) and, once Madrid had scored the game's only goal through Raúl on 51
minutes, it was pretty awful.
"Real Madrid played on the counter-attack,"
wrote Marca's Roberto Palomar. "And I mean the counter-attack: there was only
one of them and they scored from it. Capello has managed to turn Real Madrid
into a gang of brickies, heavy industry, a mine, a ministry, the inland revenue
- not jobs you can fall in love with, jobs where the only thing that matters is
the result. If you like it, good luck to you, but what horror!" El País,
likewise, described Madrid's display as "pure Capello-ism", while TVE's Juan
Carlos Rivero, following that well-worn path of Spanish anti-Italianism,
bemoaned the culture of a country obsessed with beauty when it comes to fashion
and food but irredeemably ugly and plain boring when it comes to
All of which is sort of true, but it's not quite the point. Not
yesterday, anyway. After all, victory in Mestalla is an excellent result - even
if Valencia did have two more key injuries (both strikers) to add to a list
already as long as Mr Tickle's arm - and Madrid are perfectly entitled to play
defensively. They are entitled to play on the break, they are entitled to win
1-0, and they are entitled to be dull if that leads to them winning something at
last. But yesterday was different - however much some claimed it was typical
The problem yesterday wasn't the way Madrid played football, it was
that they didn't play football. It wasn't that they defended well, it was that
they got away with not defending well - Miguel Ángel Angulo missing two absolute
sitters from a combined distance of four yards. It wasn't that Raul, as one
report put it, deserved an Oscar for Madrid's goal, it was that half the Madrid
team deserved Oscars for their acting. If Madrid had defended well, kept the
ball and/or protected their lead by controlling the match, then fine. Instead,
they killed the game by, well, killing the game - with fouls, dives, constant
stoppages and aimless hoofs out of play. It was that two players got stretchered
off due to life-threatening injuries that kept them out of action for 30
seconds. The day after Ronaldinho brought sunshine and flowers, it wasn't Madrid
robbing Valencia of victory that blew away the rainbow, it was that they robbed
us all of half the game.
Ronaldinho Vs Villareal 2006 - video powered by Metacafe
Goals From the match
35' [1 - 0] Ronaldinho (pen.) http://www.toofiles.com/en/oip/videos/avi/ron-pen-v-vil.html
55' [2 - 0] E. Gudjohnsen http://www.toofiles.com/en/oip/videos/avi/gudj-v-vila.html
70' [3 - 0] A. Iniesta http://www.toofiles.com/en/oip/videos/avi/inies-v-vila.html
88' [4 - 0] Ronaldinho - Fantastico overhead kick http://www7.spread-it.com/dl.php?id=0ef92765b29cbd58bb07fc2f4e10442c3ee94407