The Portuguese coach sealed perhaps the greatest victory in his time at the Spanish side to silence the doubters who thought Madrid were setting themselves up for a big fall
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Writing off Jose Mourinho is clearly unwise. The Portuguese has endured one controversy after another in this, his third season at the Santiago Bernabeu, and with La Liga looking lost plus difficult second leg matches away from home to come in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League against Barcelona and Manchester United, respectively, many had already waved the 50-year-old into the Spanish sunset.
Many criticisms can be levelled at Mourinho. His antics off the pitch have been unsavoury at times and ugly at others since he signed for Madrid in 2010. But when it comes to winning football matches, the man knows what he is doing.
It took a while. After his famous triumph with Inter over Barca in 2010 en route to the Champions League trophy and the Bernabeu hotseat, Mourinho kicked off with a 5-0 defeat at Camp Nou in his first Clasico. It was the worst defeat of his career. The loss, he said, “was easy to digest.” But it must have been hard to swallow for a natural-born winner such as he is.
Mourinho’s first Clasico win – and still the only time his Madrid team have kept a clean sheet against Barca – came in the final of the Copa del Rey on April 20, 2011, when Cristiano Ronaldo headed home in extra time to seal the side’s first trophy under their new coach. It seems hard to believe now that Ronaldo had scored his first goal against Barca just four days earlier in the teams’ 1-1 league draw at the Bernabeu.
Ronaldo, it was claimed, was not a man for the big occasion. He is now. If Mourinho is the leader on the bench for this Madrid team, Ronaldo is the undisputed leader on the pitch. The 28-year-old turned Gerard Pique inside out to win a penalty, coolly converted and added a second following a devastating counter-attack in the second half.
He now has 12 Clasico goals and is only five behind Lionel Messi, overshadowed on Tuesday and only coming close with a curling free kick late in the first half.
It will have been worrying for Barcelona fans. The Blaugrana produced a poor performance at AC Milan in midweek. At home, a reaction was expected, but never materialised, part in thanks to a disciplined defensive display from the visitors.
Mourinho has never gone without a trophy since his first full season at Porto in 2002-03 – and his Madrid team will now be favourites to overcome Atletico or Sevilla in the final of the Copa del Rey.
And on this evidence, the Champions League is also within their grasp. Sir Alex Ferguson was in the crowd to watch the game ahead of Manchester United’s match against Madrid at Old Trafford. And he will not have liked what he saw. United, like Barcelona before them, had drawn the first match of their tie 1-1 in Madrid. But after this swashbuckling show from Mourinho’s men, that surely means little.
For Barcelona, the concerns continue to grow. Messi was strangely subdued again, while Carles Puyol was turned inside out for the second goal by Angel Di Maria and the whole defence now looks leakier than ever. The lack of a full-time coach really is not helping, either.
For Madrid, meanwhile, it was an unforgettable night. Mourinho managed to silence his critics once again. And whatever is happening behind the scenes at the Bernabeu, more fool those who write off Jose in the battles ahead.
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