Complacency alone stands between Real Madrid CF and next month's UEFA Champions League final. Vicente del Bosque's side did not just beat FC Barcelona in Tuesday's first leg - they outclassed them.
Training ground stuff
The quality of the goals from Zinedine Zidane and Steve McManaman merely reflected the standard of their play throughout the game. That McManaman would even contemplate so audacious a finish shows how far Madrid were ahead by that stage. A day that had started as a celebration of all things Catalan had turned into a feast, not of the city's patron, Saint George (or Jordi), but of football 'madrileño'.
Against Madrid's precise artistry the local heroes looked laboured, then lost - which is saying something when you consider the names on Carles Rexach's teamsheet. Once Madrid had weathered the early storm, the home side became predictable, too reliant on getting the ball to Marc Overmars to cross to Patrick Kluivert. Luis Enrique might have scored against his former paymasters - and who knows, a Barcelona goal may have presaged an unlikely victory - but there was something inexorable about Madrid's subjugation of their old rivals.
Scratching the itch
It was a win well worth the wait, too, coming 19 seasons after the capital club's last success at Camp Nou. Zidane, for one, could not believe the Merengues had waited so long to scratch a particularly irksome itch. "Playing at grounds like that makes you even more determined," the French international said. "It was extra special because I scored and it was a great victory as Madrid had not won there for so long and this was the semi-finals of the Champions League. But we cannot be overconfident going into the second leg because while we are close to Glasgow, we are not there yet. Our minds have to be on beating Barcelona."
This will not be too difficult. The silence that descended on Barcelona in the wake of defeat lasted about 12 hours. It was Wednesday morning when the club's president, Joan Gaspart, tried to lift morale with a tirade against Madrid's five-times European champions of the 1950s. "Those five European Cups are worthless," he said.
Madrid's reply came via former winger Francisco Gento. "He is jealous because Madrid have won eight European Cups and they have just the one," he said. "I forgive him because he doesn't know what he is saying. I think he is angry because Madrid have probably won the semi-final already."
Battle almost won
In the scheme of things, this war of words was a squabble of Tom and Jerry proportions. As the siesta season approaches in Spain, Madrid will not be losing too much sleep over Gaspart. They know the real battle is almost won.
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