With the return leg of their Champions League tie with Manchester United on the horizon, momentum is beginning to gather within the ranks of Real Madrid.
Minutes before the referee called time on a second Real victory over Barcelona in five days here this afternoon, a cry of “Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho” began to drift round the Bernabeu.
As the observer sitting to my right in the press box murmured: “We haven’t heard that for a while”.
This is what it’s like for a coach in Spain and especially here in Madrid.
Winning moment: Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos headed the winner with nine minutes remaining
Joy unconfined: Ramos celebrates with Luka Modric, who swung in the corner for the winning goal
Delight: The Real Madrid fans celebrate a second win over Barcelona in five days
At half-time, it looked as though it may drift in to stalemate. Karim Benzema scored in the sixth minute from an Alvaro Morata cross and then Lionel Messi equalised with his 50th goal of the Spanish season, scoring with his left foot after Dani Alves played him through.
That apart there had been little to get excited about but, as is often the way between these two teams, things began to get a little tense and fractious in the second half and as the competitiveness of the game increased it was Real who seemed ready for a real contest.
Certainly it helped when Ronaldo came on with half an hour left. Within 15 minutes of his arrival, he had hit the side netting and brought a save from Victor Valdes with a free-kick. Before the game was over he was to hit the bar from 25 yards too.
Equaliser: Lionel Messi levelled the scores for Barcelona on 17 minutes with his 50th goal of the season
Ronaldo’s very presence in Mourinho’s team serves to lift them. It is quite remarkable to watch. And even though he was not involved in the winning goal that arrived with six minutes left it came after a passage of play that he had been at the very heart of.
Sergio Ramos it was who headed in the goal from a Luka Modric corner to spark some quite enthusiastic celebrations on the field and off it. There was still time for the referee to wave away what seemed to be decent penalty appeals for a Ramos foul on Adriano and Barcelona goalkeeper Valdes was sent off after the final whistle for the vociferous manner of his protests.
Opener: Karim Benzema scored after five minutes to give Real the lead, to the delight of the packed Bernabeu crowd
Karim Benzema celebrates scoring the opening goal
No doubt that ‘injustice’ will dominate the headlines in the Barcelona sports papers tomorrow morning. Here in Madrid, though, it will all be about Tuesday night’s visit to Old Trafford. They may trail Barcelona by 13 points in the league but in Europe it must be said that they look ready.
Benched! Ronaldo started the match among the substitutes, but came on with half an hour to play to great effect
Best of rivals: Ronaldo went head to head with Lionel Messi again