Cristiano Ronaldo guided Real Madrid to their first Spanish cup win since 1993 on Wednesday by heading in an extra-time winner in the 1-0 defeat of favourites Barcelona.
It was Real’s 18th cup triumph and their first trophy since 2008. The counter-attacking strategy of coach Jose Mourinho was completely vindicated, as the Whites soaked up all of Barca’s pressure — and hit them lethally on the break.
The crucial goal came 12 minutes into extra-time. Marcelo and Angel Di Maria played a clever one-two down the left and the latter centred perfectly for Ronaldo to get above Adriano and break the deadlock with a powerful header.
As expected, Barca enjoyed 70 per cent possession in neutral Valencia, but failed to break down an excellent Real defence. The Catalans failed to create many clear chances. The closest that they came to scoring was in the 69th minute, when Pedro had a goal correctly disallowed for offside.
Before then, all of the chances had been for Real, despite their lack of possession. Ronaldo forced a low save out of Barca keeper Jose Manuel Pinto in the 36th minute. Just before half-time, the imposing Pepe — used by Mourinho in midfield instead of defence — headed an excellent centre from Mesut Oezil against Pinto’s post.
Barca improved in the second-half and Real keeper Iker Casillas had to save low down from Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta. Real almost won it at the end of normal time, but Pinto did well to keep out a high shot from Di Maria.
Then came extra-time, with extra tension — and with Ronaldo’s memorable winning goal. Real were reduced to ten men in the last minute when Di Maria was sent off for a second bookable offence, but it was too late for Barcelona to capitalise on.