The Catalans rule Europe!!

Posted: May 28, 2009 in Football
Tags: , , , , ,

As the dust settles in Rome a day after the UCL finals, the Catalan country is still celebrating a remarkable treble-winning season while Manchester contemplates on just what went wrong. The world eagerly looked forward to the contest between two of Europe’s very best in the lead up to the finals. I was also keyed up to witness my two favorite team’s battle it out for the biggest prize in Europe. Although I wanted Man U to win, I had tipped Barca to win on the night. However, what was billed by the pundits to be a potential master class turned out to be terribly anti-climatic. Barca gave United a real football lesson as Messi & Co ran riot after starting tentatively.

United stared brightly as Ronaldo looked very sharp, testing a nervy Valdes a couple of times. However, against the run of play, Samuel Eto’ latched on to a through ball from Iniesta and scored the 1st goal completely out-foxing Vidic. This un-expected setback started the slide for Man U as they looked strangely disoriented making several mistakes and loosing the ball in the midfield at crucial times. The magnificent Barca duo of Xavi and Iniesta bossed the midfield area as Barca passed the ball to death around the Olympic stadium. Every time United lost the ball, it took ages for them to get it back again.

United’s midfield trio were woeful to say the least. Anderson was no where to be seen in the 1st half before being replaced. I don’t remember him getting more than 5 decent touches. Giggs in a make-shift central midfield role struggled to impose himself, though he did have his moments. Carrick was left alone to tackle the menace of Xavi and Iniesta by himself and he failed miserably. He was also profligate in attack miss-hitting several passes. Carrick always goes for the breath-taking through ball to the forward line which rarely comes off when retention of the ball through simple passes would have been enough. Consequently, United kept loosing the ball in crucial areas and there was no rhythm in the attack.

Barca’s tremendous passing game frustrated the united team which was desperate to get the ball back. Ferguson went for broke as he brought on both Tevez and Berbatov in the 2nd half in search of the elusive goal. This was always going to be a gamble as Man U left gaps at the back which could be exposed.

Right on cue, Messi beautifully headed in a Xavi cross in the 70th minute and it was all over. In the remainder of time, Barca came close to scoring 2 more goals while all Man U could manage were hopeful long balls which were easily handled by a 2nd string Barca defense ably marshaled by Gerad Pique an old united hand. Despite pre-match talk about a weakened Barca defense, the 2nd string easily snuffed out whatever little attack that United could muster on the night.

The final whistle was a relief for many Man U players who had suffered one of their worst hidings of their careers. There have been worse defeats in terms of the score line. But this was a match in which several superstars of Man U were made to feel inadequate by a classy Barca team led by their impressive manager Pep Guardiola. It was like slow death. The likes of Rooney and Ronaldo were helpless as the rest of their team was strangely flat in such a big game. Critics have questioned Alex Ferguson’s team selection and tactics. But, the same team and tactics had brought Man U till the final. It was just that the team was collectively poor on the night in Rome.

Alex Ferguson was magnanimous in defeat, admitting that his team was thoroughly out-classed on the night. He offered no excuses for the defeat and claimed that Barca were simply the better team by a mile. It is not often that Fergie’s team is humiliated like this and he must surely be smarting from this defeat. He later remarked that he missed Fletcher. He could have probably made the difference, breaking up the rhythm of the smooth Barca midfield. Probably a fully fit Owen Hargreaves could have also been the difference. But, there is no point in reflecting on those things. Alex Ferguson has a long summer ahead of him to ponder over this defeat. Right now, it is time to celebrate a magnificent Barcelona team which has conquered Spain and Europe playing a delightful, free-flowing brand of football which is truly a joy to watch. They have shown that despite playing in a simple uncomplicated style one can still reap rewards in football.

The newspapers have gone gaga over Messi showering him with all sorts of praises after the triumph. Many claim that he has now upstaged Ronaldo as the world’s best player. While the jury is still out on that claim, I personally feel that Andres Iniesta was the best player on display yesterday. Along with Xavi, he took United out of the game by winning the crucial midfield battle. True, Messi’s bewitching runs with the ball are a treat to watch. But, Iniesta is the engine of this Barca team. It’s heart and soul. He sets the tone for the rest of the team to follow.

After the match, Wayne Rooney hailed the Albacete-born midfielder, as the “best in the world.” Until, the arrival of Pep Guardiola, Iniesta has always burned brightly with unfulfilled promise, struggling on the fringes of one of the world’s greatest teams. The story goes that when Guardiola first saw Iniesta train for Barcelona’s youth team, he commented to Xavi, his own nominated heir: “You’re going to retire me, but this kid’s going to retire us all.” He presented Iniesta, wide-eyed and shy, with a signed picture dedicated “to the best player I ever saw.” No doubt Guardiola must have watched mortified as Frank Rijkaard continually overlooked the youngster’s claims, shunting him left and right, but rarely giving him the centre stage. When his idol took over his club immediately afterwards, Iniesta was finally presented with the responsibility and trust he needed. He is, surely, the first name on Guardiola’s team-sheet.

After last night, he would be the first name on almost any team-sheet, and is a shoo-in to appear on stage in Zurich when FIFA holds its world player of the year gala. Let’s hope he finally gets the plaudits that he deserves.

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Comments
  1. Srinath.V says:

    nice one

    Frank Rijkaard did have deco, it was a close call for him as deco is also a good player

    you got it bag on, i think the game changer was Andres Iniesta and the Man U midfield player were just missing!

    i still feel Sir Alex did get in wrong, after seeing Ch kill barca with a strong midfield it was a trend that was out in the open.

    wat your take

  2. Ravi says:

    The beatiful game won on one of the most memorable nights.. ManU had history on its side of not having lost any final…No doubt ManU statrted well not because of Ronaldo long range shots instead they played high on pitch and crunched the Barca midfield.. Messi, Iniesta and Xavi were hardly getting the ball but the problem with ManU is that they kept losing the ball… They missed Fletcher heavily.. ANderson, John Oshea and Carrick were big disappointments… Ronney was left pondering as a bunny… If you see their most busy player was shut out of the game..

    The beauty of this Barca team is that they play simple and beautiful football.. Possession, short and clever passing even in the box, no long range hoikes, no 30 yard stunning srikes… they keep it simple and effective… They keep the ball in the most difficult areas of the field where it is almost impossible to get it back… Further if they loose they will hound like a pack of wolves till they win it back… The second goal was a classic Barca goal where Puyol wins it back and Xavi shows his mastery and Messi his brilliance.. It is such an irony that Messi was the shortest man in the field and Oshea, Ferdinand easily dwarf him in strength and height but messi towers them over in craft, pace and control of the ball… It is contentious if he is the best individual fotballer but he is the best team player… He starts of at the front and seeing Barca not able to play freely he drops back and keeps possession and lets Barca take complete control of the midfield… Messi, Xavi, Iniesta now can make it ony team in the planet that has anything to do with football…

    Additionally Barca defence was supposed to be weak and most were make shift like Pique and Puyol but they caught Rooney and Ronaldo offside quite a few times when they had to go round and cut in… Puyol, Sylviniho vs Ronaldo was considered to be no match given Ronaldo’s craft and pace but instead he was caught playing catch up…. Now for ManU boys it is time to come back to earth and play thoughtful football.. Ronaldo is good but he is most susceptible to lose the ball and then the team is left to run behind it… Barca is a team that can keep the ball all night and score some of the most clever and effective goals.. However for ManU VanDe Sar was their best player and kept the humiliation to the minimum.. Now Sir Alex has to wake up and try to give some more deserving players like Tevez better chances.. They need workhorse and impact players like Tevez and Rooney.. Berbatov has to pull out a next stupendous season to claim his place in ManU or else he will end up like many others – a beautiful fotballer who rarely scores…

    As Pep put it rightly they are not the beat team in the history but they had a historic season… Being a Barca fan i can not be more content and happy… Hurray Barcelona…

  3. The Iceman says:

    @Ravi: Man U were just woeful on that particular day. They still have an incredible team with tremendous depth in resources. They might need strengthening in a few areas, but rest assured, Fergie and his boys will be back with a bang next season.

    On Barca, they do have an young and extremely talented outfit at their disposal. But, lets see how long they can keep up their dominance. Teams will soon find a way to play against Barca. Whats more, Real Madrid smarting from the hammering they took this year, would go all-out for retribution next season.

    It’s going to be good fun next year!!

    PS: You seem to enjoy making huge comments on my posts. I think its time for you to start ur own blog buddy!!

  4. Ravi says:

    A good idea,,, I love writting but i am too lazy to start blogs… and i can complicate matters fast…

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