Belfast Telegraph

El of an ending to nail-biting drama

By Billy Weir

You got the feeling that Sky were trying really hard to convince us that this El Clasico was going to be a clinker when they wheeled out their most Spanish-sounding presenter on Sunday evening.

David Garrido was the man in the hotseat for Barcelona's trip to take on Real Madrid, as back home, Jim White's cunning ruse of turning up and being asked to be called Santiago Blanco was rumbled right away.

This was to be the 234th part of the series - and you think it's hard keeping up to date with Broadchurch and Line of Duty - so as a presenter you need a wingman who is on hand to solve the clues and give us the answers we crave.

"In the last 11 Clasicos, Lionel Messi has failed to score in nine of them and none in the last six, why?" he implored Guillem Balague.

"No idea," came the response, as Sky checked to see if that was his real name, if he was actually called Billy and desperately searched to see if Balague was a very rude word when translated from Spanish.

They were also joined by Thierry Henry, former Barca player and handball enthusiast, but I was distracted at this stage with the news that the referee was called Hernandez Hernandez, a man clearly trying too hard to justify his presence.

Things started unusually when a man in a green jacket dandered onto the pitch to kick the ball, but on closer inspection it was Sergio Garcia, Masters winner and Real Madrid fan.

He wasn't the only swinger in town, however, as Gerry Arconada-Armstrong - no need to check his Spanish pedigree - was in the commentary box alongside Rob Palmer.

"Interesting seeing Sergio Garcia in his green jacket in the week that Rob Palmer got a hole in one," he said, and I assume he meant golf and that he hadn't snagged his favourite Gerry Armstrong 1982 Yer Man anorak.

Suddenly we were rudely interrupted by the strains of Y Viva Espana being sung, Palmer telling us that it was "politics entering the arena" although it may well have been a few stragglers from 1982 who hadn't made it back to the Welders club yet.

But if it was heat you wanted, Palmer had the answer.

"Put your hands in front of the television and feel the electricity from this game," he said and I was nearly frazzled as Real took the lead, only for it to be cancelled out soon after by Messi, and while Guillem had no answers to Leo's goal drought, Gerry did.

"I was told he hadn't scored in six Clasicos and my mate Frankie is a big Messi fan and he told me he's going to score and he did," he explained as back in the studio a mysterious man called Francisco grappled with Guillem for a seat.

The second half kicked off just as Line of Duty did on BBC1 and Rob and Gerry were doing all in their power to keep us right where we were.

"Wow, wow," said Gerry as Real missed a chance.

"Wow, wow, wow," he added as Barca did likewise and we wondered had Tom Jones been shipped in, before Andy Gray took over as Ivan Rakitic scored for the visitors, prompting Gerry to tell him to "take a bow". At least it wasn't a bow, bow, bow.

"This is intriguing, I am aware there is a great series on television tonight but that is what Sky+ is made for," interjected Palmer, before crowbarring in "who will be the hero in the line of duty here?"

My attention had been distracted at this point by my delightful other half asking "what's wrong with wee beardy?" after Lionel Messi, the world's best and most recognisable player, had been savaged by Sergio Ramos, although Sergio Garcia with a five wood would have caused less damage.

There was more pain to come as James Rodriguez levelled matters for Madrid, as Palmer said, "writing his name in the history books", well, for all of four minutes as wee beardy dusted himself off to settle the battle of the heavyweights.

"He does it again, he's just super human, another chapter in the incredible story of this little man," said Palmer, Gerry keeping the theme going by adding "you can't write the script for this".

And then it was all over, Palmer concluding it was "breathless, pulsating, frenetic, dramatic, no adjectives can do justice to what we have seen".

Well, apart from those ones, but Garrido, like Colombo, had just one more thing to sort out.

"In a word, Thierry, how did Barcelona do it?" he pressed.

"Lionel Messi," came the response. Close, but at least he didn't say 'wee beardy' or 'no idea'.

Belfast Telegraph


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