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Mourinho strikes significant psychological blow with Supercup triumph
- Updated: 30 August, 2012
After a stuttering start to the defence of their league crown and a lacklustre display in the first leg of the Spanish Supercup, Real Madrid have finally arrived at the party. Their performance against Barcelona during Wednesday’s 2-1 triumph at the Bernabeu may not have been perfect, however, for spells – most obviously the opening 30 minutes of the encounter, Jose Mourinho’s side provided ample evidence that it will be immensely difficult to relinquish them of their title.
The post-match trophy presentation was somewhat less significant than the victory of course, after all the Supercup only ever means anything to these two sides when they actually meet each other in the season curtain raiser, however, there was a huge sense of relief as Iker Casillas and Cristiano Ronaldo led their team mates around the pitch to thunderous applause. Mourinho and his side were under pressure going into this game and they produced a performance that could ultimately influence the course of the season.
The Portuguese coach unleashed a rare public tirade against his players following the dismal 2-1 defeat at Getafe on Sunday, and had pointedly stated before this game that he was more concerned about how his team would react to that loss than beating Barcelona – although few probably believed him of course. The defeat against Luis Garcia’s team left Madrid with just one point from their opening two league games, add to this the first leg Supercup defeat at the Camp Nou last Thursday and the reigning Spanish champions had endured their worst start to a season in almost 40 years.
More significantly however, Barcelona began with three straight victories. They were also looking far sharper and it has to be said, far fitter, than Mourinho’s team. While many people suggested Tito Vilanova was the man under pressure as he began the impossible task of replicating the success enjoyed by Pep Guardiola, the transition was seamless. It helps that Guardiola’s former number two is a tactical acolyte of the Barcelona way, with little changing on the training pitch or indeed within the team, nonetheless, Vilanova still enjoyed an impressive start to life in the Camp Nou hot seat.
The pressure had turned full circle then. Real Madrid and Mourinho were very much in the spotlight as the two teams took to the pitch on Wednesday evening. Defeat would have delivered a huge psychological blow to the champions – in turn handing the season initiative very much to Vilanova and his Barcelona side. Credit to the Portuguese coach and his players then, as they delivered a 30 minute performance that was arguably their best since Mourinho arrived from Italy two years ago. It was certainly their best spell against Barcelona.
The Catalans were somewhat complicit in their own demise of course, as some almost-comical defending in both games made their task all the more harder. Yet Madrid played some exquisite football during the opening half on Wednesday – leaving Barca shell shocked. Things quickly began to look far less positive for Vilanova on the sidelines and he looked unable to take the much-needed decisive action to regroup his players.
Barcelona did regroup nevertheless, and they must receive some praise for getting back into the game after Adriano had been sent off for hauling down Ronaldo just before the half hour mark. Lionel Messi’s stunning free kick on the stroke of half time gave the visitors the belief that was missing earlier in the clash and they looked far more composed during the second period when one more goal would have sent the trophy back to Catalunya. However, and despite both Pedro and Messi going agonisingly close to getting that all-important strike, Mourinho’s side thoroughly deserved their victory.
That victory will be far more significant in Madrid than Barcelona however, as Vilanova’s side travelled home safe in the knowledge that they still sit five points clear of their rivals after just two league games. However, for all those beginning to suggest Real Madrid were in something of an early season crisis, the result and more significantly, the performance, proves otherwise.
The early season impetuous is still very much with Tito Vilanova and Barcelona of course, however, Real Madrid regained some significant ground in the psychological war with their victory on Wednesday evening. The challenge now for Mourinho and his side is to kick start their league campaign – starting with the visit to the Bernabeu of Granada on Sunday.Follow @icentrocampista