Real Madrid are through to the Copa del Rey final against either Atletico Madrid or Sevilla, after they beat Barcelona 3-1 at Camp Nou in the second leg.
That result saw Real through 4-2 on aggregate, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice and Raphael Varane—who also netted in the first leg—getting one for the victors. Jordi Alba scored a late consolation for Barcelona, but the game was already lost by that time after some terrible defending by the Catalan side.
Barcelona dominated possession for much of the game, as expected, but it was very much a passive and aimless retention of the ball all too often, with Real Madrid packing the centre of the penalty area in two lines and denying the home side space to work in.
With full-backs Alba and Dani Alves not getting the ball quick enough or in wide enough areas high up the pitch, the usual tempo and rhythm of Barcelona’s attack was disrupted and negated by a rigid and organised defensive unit.
At the opposite end of the field we saw the opposite approach to defending: Barcelona were open, exposed and sloppy.
Real played the perfect game.
They let their fast wide attackers take advantage of the space behind the Barcelona defence, they broke at pace without worrying about losing the ball in the transition, already knowing they had defenders aplenty in place, and were clinical enough at key moments to make the most of their chances.
An ill-advised challenge from Gerard Pique led to the opening goal of the game being scored from the penalty spot by Cristiano Ronaldo, but it was the second goal that really finished the tie.
Sure, Barcelona needed goals of their own, but a suicidal lack of awareness to the positioning of Angel Di Maria and Ronaldo during a Barça attack led to their downfall. As clearly shown in the video, a single long pass out of defence took six home defenders out of the game, leaving Di Maria in a foot race with Carles Puyol.
Despite the best efforts of Jose Manuel Pinto, who saved the initial shot, the failure of anybody to track Ronaldo’s run over more than 50 yards meant an easy finish for the No 7.
It was an overcommitment to attack without balance, and Barcelona’s concentration was lacking in even the most basic of defensive circumstances.
A headed third goal came from Raphael Varane, direct off a corner, after he was left unmarked before, during and after his run from the edge of the penalty box to the six-yard box.
Barcelona paid a heavy price for their inability to deal with the wide open spaces of their own home pitch, and have much work to do before Saturday’s league clash against the same opposition if they are to come up with a more positive response and result.