Robin Scott-Elliot: Marathon lifts the soul – if only the Jose and Pep Show could run and run

View From The Sofa: London Marathon BBC1; El Clasico, Sky Sports

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The Independent Online

There is one area that BBC Sport rarely get wrong; they know a catchy tune. From Match of the Day, to the steel drums of the cricket, to Fleetwood Mac and the Grand Prix (the original choice of which revolves round an unprintable story involving a 70s dance act, a sofa and a gramophone) these are evocative numbers that have become anthems.

Then there's the London Marathon and its theme, which, to take a small diversion, was composed for a film, The Trap, starring Oliver Reed in the role of a French-Canadian backwoodsman who, and I quote, "unwittingly took a mute girl as his wife". In the film, Reed falls into a bear trap. "C'est la vie," as they say in the backwoods of Quebec. Anyway, its song fits rather nicely over heaving shots of thousands of people plodding around the capital's roads sweating profusely, faces locked in smiles that become ever more taut as the miles disappear.

If you can't be moved by the sights, sounds and stories of the marathon, then you have a heart of stone, or you're Bernie Ecclestone. Especially so when the music swells and the director cuts to a panoramic shot of thousands streaming over Tower Bridge. Even if some are dressed as Wombles.

Marathon casting doesn't include a villain, but it was not difficult to pick him out in the Nou Camp on Saturday evening. There he slouched in the away dugout, greying hair cropped short, dressed in black, quite possibly holding a cackle deep inside as he masterminded the triumph of evil over good. Jose Mourinho remained disappointingly calm throughout El Clasico. In the next-door dugout, Pep Guardiola, whose stubble has become noticeably greyer, was much more animated, at one point advancing to the touchline making a pair of pistols with his hands in the manner of small boy playing cowboys and Indians. The Indians got away.

Commentator Rob Palmer took a different tack. "This is like the inside of a volcano," he suggested. The problem with the "biggest game on the planet" was that it wasn't a very good game for much of a damp night in Barcelona. The first 20 minutes were littered with as many mistakes as a George Osborne budget and more inappropriate passes than at a Dominique Strauss-Kahn dinner party. At one point, the ball bobbled off Lionel Messi's shin. "They can't get it right all the time," said Gerry Armstrong, the former Northern Ireland international.

Armstrong and Palmer are a quirky and enjoyable pairing. Palmer occasionally veers happily off into Partridge country. He threw in a "silencio por favor" line when Ronaldo scored the winner to quieten the Nou Camp which was pure-Partridge, as was having Ronaldo "wriggling on the touchline like a worm" after being on the wrong end of a Dani Alves tackle. "He's a mile offside," judged Armstrong as the flag went up against a Barça player. "A footballing mile, Gerry," corrected Palmer, no doubt making an important distinction on a sporting weekend defined by distance.

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