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Nov 30, 2009

FC Barcelona won the first edition of this season's Clasico with a solitary strike from Zlatan Ibrahmovic. Zlatan scored in the 56th minute after being introduced five minutes before in the place of Thierry Henry. After the sensational display at Bernebeu last year, people might have been disappointed by Barca's display tonight. This wasn't a typical Barcelona performance and it shows that the team has not yet hit the top gear. The most important thing from tonight's match is that we have regained the lead from Real Madrid and now has a two point advantage at the top. Guardiola lined up Alves, Pique, Puyol and Abidal in the defense. The midfield had Busquets playing along with Xavi and Keita. Iniesta, Henry and Messi formed the attacking trio. Ibra surprisingly started from the bench; maybe Guardiola thought it was risky to start both Messi and Zlatan after coming of injury.

Real Madrid came out on top in the early exchanges. Ronaldo and Kaka looked very dangeros from the start. Camp Nou faithfuls was whistling at every moment when Ronaldo had possession. In the 7th minute Ronaldo ran past Puyol on the left wing and sent in a great cross to Marcelo, who shot high. In the 9th minute Messi skipped past defenders and finds Henry but his shot was straight at casillas. In the 20th minute the entire Camp Nou was stunned for a second when they thought Ronaldo has put Real ahead. Kaka setup Ronaldo spotting his run past Pique but Valdes produced a stunning save to deny the Portuguese winger. That save became crucial as far theresult is concerned. Kaka was looking dangerous as the creative midfielder. He found Marcelo in an excellent position in the 26th minute but Puyol produced a stunning save denying the Brazilian. Barca were struggling to produce their free flowing football, but they started getting into the match neutralising Real Madrid. There was not much chances till the half time, only there were some pretty bad challenges.

The second half saw Barca coming with more intent. In the 46th minute Iniesta sent in a great cross into the box, but was cleared by Albiol. In the 51st minute Guardiola took Henry off and brought in Ibrahmovic. In the 53rd minute Madrid sets off on a counter from Barca corner; Higuain turns inside and look set to shopt but Puyol produced another stunning block. That proved to be crucial as Ibra scored on the other end in the 56th minute with an excellent finish. Alves send in a high cross to the far post, Ibra volleyed int the corner on the run. After the goal Barcelona was looking to take control of the match. But Busquets was expelled in the 62nd minute for a second yellow card after a stupid handball. that made the rest of the game interesting as Real tried their best to equalise. Guardiola read the situation immediately and brought in Toure for Keita. You can't afford to have a defensive midfielder missing against Real Madrid. In the 70th minute Pique wasted a great chance to seal off the game whne he headed over from a free kick. In the 81st minute Benzema failed to convert from a promising position. Real Madrid was applying all the pressure to get the equaliser. But it was Messi who came close to a goal in the dying moments. In the 89th minute Casillas pulled out a stunning save to deny messi from a great position. But in the end Zlatan strike proved to be enough.

This was no classic performance from Barca. It shows that this team is not yet hit the top gear. Busquets performance was very poor. He looked very vulnerable with quick taleneted foot players in the middle. Puyol was the best player for Barca. I had to appreciate Guardiola's good thinking tonight. I don't regard him as a great tactician. But tonight he read the situations well. He brought in Zlatan for Henry early on giving a much longer chance for Ibra. He also brought in Toure for Keita once Busquets was sent off.

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