Armchair Reporter: Madrid use their brains to ruin it for Joe-han

Real Madrid players celebrate after their victory over Barcelona at the Camp Nou on Saturday night
Picture by AP
Andy Watters

THIERRY HENRY says football is about your brain and that suits me.

Between the ears I’m as good as anyone, it’s the other stuff - first touch, passing ability, shooting, running, tackling, heading, pace - that lets me down. There were plenty of lads with the whole package on show on Saturday night at the Camp Nou when Barcelona and Real Madrid got it on in ‘El Clasico’.

Henry and Michael Laudrup were in the Sky Sports studio for the build-up alongside anchorwoman Katie Aldo who brought a touch of glam to proceedings with a natty off-the-shoulder number. Elton Welsby she ain’t.

Thierry ain’t no Elton Welsby either of course. He mostly comes across as a laid back sort of fella but, as a former Barcelona player and with his old mate Zinadine Zidane in the Real dugout, he was pure buzzing for the game.

The home side had ‘MSN’ - Messi, Suarez and Neymar - up front against Real’s ‘BBC’ strikeforce of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano (Ronaldo). Not bad, but Thierry is a big fan of Andres Iniesta too.

“I love the fact that he uses his brain,” said the former Gunner, further illustrating his point that brain does it for him over brawn.

At pitchside, resident Spanish football expert Guillem Balague said everybody was talking about ‘Joe-han’ Cruyff who sadly passed away on March 24. “Bart-thel-ona want to win it for Joe-han,” he explained.

With the world’s top talent on show a packed house of 90,000 paid a stunning tribute to Barcelona’s Dutch master Cruyff before kick-off. ‘Gracies Johan’ was spelt out in Catalans by hundreds of fans holding yellow cards alongside Cruyff’s number 14 jersey.

The stage was set, but the first-half was dominated by a physical midfield battle. Suarez and Benzema missed good chances but Sergio Ramos attracted most of the attention. The Spain defender could have been booked three times and Dani Alves went down like he’d been slugged by a 20-year-old Mike Tyson after he’d brushed his nose with his arm.

Alves rolled around, banged the turf and then did the old is-my-nose-bleeding routine. There was no blood, there never is, and once he calmed down referee Hernandez Hernandez got on with the game.

In the second-half, a rare moment of genius from Messi almost opened the scoring before Gerard Pique scored with a scorching header. But Real weren’t done yet. Benzema equalised with a spectacular scissor kick finish and, after Bale had a perfectly good header disallowed, Ronaldo hit the bar with a dipping shot.

Ramos - probably not Henry’s kind of player - eventually got himself sent-off, but the visitors won the game anyway. Bale crossed and Ronaldo scored at the far post to ruin Barcelona’s night.

Real’s players hooped and hollered as they left the field and the lads in the studio agreed that they deserved the three points. A look at the table showed that Barca are still in control of La Liga though - six points ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid.

Meanwhile, Valencia aren’t in the top half which probably explains why they let Gary Neville go this week. Statistically, Neville - a cross between Scott Quigg and Graham Taylor - is the worst British manager ever to be recruited by a Spanish club. A bit harsh since he didn’t get long to prove himself but, hey, it’s a results business don’t you know.

“When we’re winning, we all win. But when we lose, it’s the manager,” said Laudrup with a knowing grin.

“You stay in the studio Thierry,” said Kate before she wrapped it up.

Work done, she signed off at 10pm all kitted out for a night on the town.


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