Tuesday was a great night for Real Madrid, who sealed their place in the Copa del Rey final with plenty to spare. They gave a fantastic display, showing tactical discipline and a readiness to work for each other. Ángel Di María was much improved. In fact, everyone was on their game - especially Cristiano Ronaldo. Without doubt the star of the team, he was a colossus, putting in a match-winning performance of dominance and power. Meanwhile, there were few positives for Barcelona; indeed, they offered clear evidence that they are running out of steam. Jordi Roura's men were disjointed, devoid of control and devoid of Lionel Messi. Only Andrés Iniesta was something approaching his usual self. He really is impressive: nothing prevents him from playing his game.
So, we reflect on what has been the first truly excellent evening for Madrid this season. They lost ground in La Liga early on, got out of their Champions League group in an inglorious second and could only muster a dangerous draw against Manchester United in their last-16 first leg. After that, they came away with a 1-1 scoreline in the first leg of this Copa del Rey semi-final - thanks mainly to Barça's profligacy on the break. Yet this was all consigned to the past at the Camp Nou as Real came out on top in every department: in their play, work-rate and approach. With the whole world watching, they gave an unequivocal show of superiority over the Catalan outfit, and Cristiano made it clear who was boss. Messi was just another player in a team that looked lost, while the Portugal star was the hero for a winning team that can now look forward to a cup final.
Coming back to Barcelona, I feel that Roura's pre-match declarations about referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco were a mistake: the stand-in coach distracted his players from the game in hand and succeeded only in filling their heads with thoughts of protest towards the officials. Maybe it wasn't just that, though. Barça find themselves in an extremely rocky period and have lost the essence of their game. Against Madrid, the team that plays to Xavi's beat and awaits the genius of Messi or Iniesta was nowhere to be seen. Instead, they were sucked into an end-to-end encounter that played straight into their visitors' hands, even more so given that their Argentine star had left his stardust in the dressing room. Roura was taught a lesson, and it is to his fortune that the league title is all but safe. This was not the Barça we have come to expect.