VALENCIA - Real Madrid claimed
their first trophy under Jose Mourinho in dramatic fashion when
Cristiano Ronaldo's extra-time winner secured a 1-0 King's Cup
final victory over arch-rivals Barcelona on Wednesday.
With penalties looming in a tense and occasionally brutal
clash at a festive Mestalla stadium in Valencia, the Portuguese
forward leaped to crash home a 103rd-minute header from Angel Di
Maria's superb centre after regular time had ended in stalemate.
Real's first domestic cup since 1993 in Mourinho's debut
season since joining from Inter Milan denied Pep Guardiola's
Barca, who lead La Liga by eight points, the chance of a second
treble in three seasons.
Their first silverware after two barren seasons also gives
Real a lift ahead of their two-legged European Champions League
semi-final against Barca on April 27 and May 3.
"Winning a trophy is always good," a weary-looking Mourinho,
who was criticised by honorary Real president Alfredo Di Stefano
after Saturday's 1-1 La Liga draw with Barca at the Bernabeu,
said at a news conference.
"I try to do my work as well as possible and I am tired now
but very pleased," added the 48-year-old.
"It gives me some tranquility, nothing more, and I will
continue with my work."
Mourinho, who won the King's Cup in 1997 and 1998 as
assistant to Barca coaches Bobby Robson and Louis Van Gaal, has
now won cups in four different countries following triumphs in
his native Portugal with Porto, in England with Chelsea and in
Italy with Inter.
"In my opinion it was a great football match," he said. "I
think we played well against a great team and beating a great
team has more value."
In a festive atmosphere in the Mediterranean port city, one
half of the 55,000-capacity stadium was decked out in the claret
and blue of Barca and draped in Catalan flags, while the other
was a sea of white flecked with the yellow and gold of Spain.
Mourinho opted not to include a striker in his starting 11,
instead deploying an attacking trident of Cristiano Ronaldo,
Mesut Ozil and Di Maria, who was sent off after receiving his
second yellow card just before the end of extra time.
Mourinho's Barca counterpart Pep Guardiola left captain
Carles Puyol, who only returned from injury in Saturday's
"Clasico", on the bench and midfielder Javier Mascherano
partnered Gerard Pique in central defence.
Barca, the 2009 Cup winners, had six players from Spain's
World Cup-winning squad in their starting 11 and Real four but
any memories of shared glory in South Africa seemed far from
their minds in an attritional first half hour.
Real successfully closed down Barca's creative midfielders
and pacy forwards and had much the better of the first half
before Pepe crashed a header off the post in the 44th minute
with goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto well beaten.
Barca had failed to muster a shot on target but the second
period was a different story and they utterly dominated
possession, Andres Iniesta and Pedro forcing fine saves from
keeper and Spain team mate Iker Casillas.
However, even World Player of the Year Lionel Messi was
unable to break the deadlock and Ronaldo almost put Real ahead
when he sped on to Xabi Alonso's pass in the eighth minute of
extra-time but his arrowed drive whistled narrowly wide.
He made no mistake five minutes later and his powerful
header sent the white half of the stadium into raptures and had
them singing Mourinho's name long after Casillas had hoisted the
trophy aloft and the Barca fans had trooped dejectedly into the
warm Valencia night.
"It's a very important title we're going to enjoy it,"
Ronaldo said in a television interview.
"Mourinho has done a good job," he added of his compatriot.
"He's helped us a lot. Barca played very well but as you know
the team who scores wins."
Guardiola was philosophical in defeat and said he and his
players now had to concentrate on recuperating for Saturday's La
Liga game at home to Osasuna.
"First of all I want to congratulate Real Madrid," the
former Barca and Spain midfielder told a news conference. "Life
is like that. You can't always win."
Barca are the record King's Cup winners with 25, while Real
now have 18.
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