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PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Football triumphed again. FC Barcelona, with goals from Puyol and Abidal, defeated Madrid 2-1 at the Bernabeu in the first leg of the Cup quarterfinals, in a match that was similar to the league game (3-1), with regard to how the game went, with Madrid scoring first. The match left the same sensations as the first leg of the semifinals of the Champions League (2-0 to Barça) regarding Madrid's approach to the game. In both previous games, just like on Wednesday, Guardiola's team won the game, and he can celebrate an unforgettable 41st birthday. It's his fifth win in Madrid.

The 2-1 margin could have been much greater. For Barça, the midfield controlled the game, and two defenders decided it, whilst for Madrid the forwards could only defend. Two football concepts which, in practice, meant that Barcelona totally dominated the game, and they'll go into the return leg at the Camp Nou (Wednesday 25th at 22.00, Canal + and Radio Barça) with a slight advantage.

The ball belonged to Barça

Guardiola gambled on the starting eleven that gave him victory in the league a month ago, with the only change being Pinto for Valdés. Mourinho, however, came up with a surprising, and revolutionary, starting eleven, with Altintop at right-back, Carvalho as central defender, and Pepe in midfield. FC Barcelona had total possession from the start, whilst Madrid, with a crowded midfield, defended deep, in an approach similar to the first leg of the Champions League semifinal.

Ronaldo puts Madrid ahead

Cristiano Ronaldo, in a rapid counterattack that ended in a goal on 11 minutes, made Mourinho's tactics look good. The Portuguese player put Madrid ahead with the only shot on goal they had in the entire first half. The development of events was just like the Barça 3-1 win in the league, with Madrid scoring early on, but not unsettling Barça at all. They just carried on playing their football, and dominating the game, and Iniesta came close, Alexis, with a header onto the post, and Messi, almost tied up the game before halftime. They just didn't have any luck.

Puyol equaliser from a header

The equaliser came just after the break, with a sublime diving header from Puyol, from a Xavi corner, very similar to the goal he scored to make it 2-1 in the 6-2 win. Suddenly, a bad result for Barça became a goldmine to take back home The goal affected Madrid badly, and they weren't comfortable at all for the rest of the game.

Abidal is eternal

The goal to make it 1-1 further strengthened Barça's domination. Yet another authentic monologue in Madrid, and another shot against the post, this time from Iniesta. In a rare Madrid attack, Benzema responded with a header that also struck the woodwork. The game, however, was going Barca's way, and Messi played a fantastic ball to Abidal who made it 2-1. The Frenchman beat Casillas with a deft left foot finish. A delightful goal, a great result, and a fantastic birthday present for Guardiola.
Happy Birthday Pep!


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