It was a symphonic performance by Barcelona and a concert of celebrities by Real Madrid.
When up against the wall, when faced with adversity, the Blaugrana remained calm and confident, passing precisely and with purpose, from the goal line of Valdes through the defense line held by Pique and Puyol, to the genius Xavi who fed the ball to the deity of football joy, Lionel Messi. Los Blancos replied as individuals, such as when Cristiano Ronaldo passed to himself, lost the ball as Barcelona players shut down space, leaving Ronaldo to display his edginess as he committed a useless foul on his former teammate, Pique.
And while we’re talking about Ronaldo, let’s settle the most frivolous debate of the game: Messi completely outplayed Cristiano. Lionel constantly moved off the ball to create space, floating in behind the defense as he did to receive Xavi’s return pass en route to scoring the opening goal. Ronaldo has had a typical Ronaldo season: scoring multiple goals in blowouts against teams with annual expenditures less than what he spends on earrings, hair gel, and chest waxes during a night out with Paris Hilton (not including the cost of earrings, hair gel, and chest waxes for Miss Hilton).
But the genius of the game was Barcelona’s Xavi who had another magisterial display in midfield. Madrid held sturdy during the first 30 minutes of the game with Xabi Alonso and Gago putting down hard challenges on Pedro and Xavi. Undeterred, Xavi set up Messi’s goal with a sublime chip before threading a through ball to assist Pedro for the second goal.
As the final whistle sounded, the Real players were roundly jeered by their fans. The Barcelona players, eight of whom came up through their youth system, celebrated as if they’d just won a championship. Having just burned away Madrid’s chances of winning the title, they may as well have.