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Thursday, 19 January 2012

Mourinho under pressure after 'woeful' Barca loss

Madrid: Another loss to Barcelona has piled pressure on Jose Mourinho, with support for the Real Madrid coach ebbing after another ill-tempered and ineffective display against their biggest rivals summed up by Pepe's ugly stamp on Lionel Messi's hand.

Barcelona rallied for a 2-1 Copa del Rey victory on Wednesday for their 10th victory in 13 games, and sixth win against Madrid since the Portuguese coach took over in 2010.

Mourinho's defensive tactics and use of centerback Pepe in midfield did little to stop Barcelona's attack, while his aggressive approach and lack of offensive inspiration drew jeers from the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Even daily sports paper Marca, a staunch Madrid supporter, labeled Madrid's performance "woeful" and Pepe's stamp on Messi "repugnant."

"Madrid have thrown their entire history overboard by electing this woeful style, which did not produce a single benefit," Marca columnist Santi Segurola wrote. "(Pepe's) presence in midfield represented a minuscule, almost nothing, Madrid that disappointed because Spanish football remembers a lot of (Madrid) teams with less talent that made it more difficult for Barcelona."

"This team has bought the best players the market has to offer - what for? To play like an insignificant, distasteful team."

Mourinho surprised by sticking with a defensive game plan that had failed before against Barcelona, with Ricardo Carvalho and Hamit Altintop starting in defence and Madrid's focus of disrupting Barcelona's midfield creativity led by Pepe, who came under heavy criticism from the Spanish press, with Marca calling his stamp "unacceptable."

Pepe's actions were not surprising. The Portugal defender was red carded for a tackle on Barcelona's Daniel Alves in their Champions League semi-final in April, and he was also banned for 10 games in April 2009 after lashing out at two Getafe players in a skirmish that included him stamping on the back of Javier Casquero after pushing the player to the ground, unprovoked.

"Pepe always plays fairly," Carvalho said. "Sometimes he plays to the limit but his intention is always to play the ball and to play cleanly."

Pepe's stamp on Messi, who was also violently shoved in the head by Madrid defender Fabio Coentrao during the match, characterized Madrid's inability to deal with Barcelona, as the Catalans held the ball for nearly three-quarters of the match.

"Pepe has trouble managing his aggressiveness. There's a great feeling of impotence in Madrid, who are trying all possible methods and Mourinho probably feels incapable despite all of his history of successes," Juan Carlos Cubeiro, co-author of Mourinho vs. Guardiola: Two Methods for Achieving the Same Objective, told The Associated Press on Thursday. "Mourinho tried a very intelligent strategy by hoping to strike on the counter. He is intelligent, he knows they can't play with Barca and the only way to success is on the counter."

Cubeiro said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola's belief in team play and the fact that so many of Barcelona's players came out of their youth academy were behind the highly-paid Madrid squad's inability to find a way to beat the Catalans.

"You cannot copy the collective system that Guardiola relies on. Manchester United tried, Santos tried and neither succeeded," said Cubeiro, who echoed a sentiment that is unlikely to ever be adopted by Mourinho. "Madrid play better without Cristiano Ronaldo than with him, they have more options without him, which is quite a paradox" because Mourinho called the Portugal forward his best player on Wednesday night.

Madrid lead defending champions Barcelona by five points in the league, and must first play Athletic Bilbao on Sunday before trying to overturn the first leg result on Wednesday. While Mourinho said Pepe could be punished for the stamp, there is no certainty over whether there will be any consequences to his actions in another Barcelona performance eclipsed by Madrid's transgressions.

"There are people whose job is just that, to review the play. Let's see what they do," Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said on Thursday.

"People just want to watch football, good games, good football. We don't want to talk about bad things like this, because it is bad for Spanish football and we don't really want this."


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