Posts Tagged ‘Barca’

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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Little Superstar Simbu is apparently a huge Man U fan. He is even planning to fly to Rome for the Champions League finals against Barca!!

What Crap!! I am now considering ditching United for some other club!

After the 1st leg, both of the CL semis were finely in the balance, with Man U & Chelsea holding slight a slight edge as the action moved to London this week. But what followed in both the matches was totally contrasting. Man U demolished the Gunners at the Emirates stadium, while Barca struck a last-gasp equalizer at Stamford Bridge to edge a tie mired by controversy over the abject refereeing of Tom Henning Ovrebo from Norway who refused as many as 4 clear-cut penalty appeals from furious Chelsea players. The end result after all the madness was a CL final line-up which is a football aficionado’s dream.

Going into its tie with Arsenal, Alex Ferguson must have been quietly confident that his side could get a positive result from its visit to Emirates on Tuesday. But, history was against Fergie’s team. Arsenal had not lost at Emirates in CL before, and Man U had not managed to win at the emirates in 4 previous visits, managing 1 draw and 3 losses. However with probably his best team at this disposal and injuries to the gunners back four, this presented Man U’s best chance to correct history, and boy did they do in emphatic style!!

Two goals within the 1st 15 minutes knocked out Arsenal cold and silenced a boisterous crowd. It was a bit like Manny Pacquiao’s fight against Ricky Hatton on Sunday at the MGM Grand. Bang – Bang and it was all over too quickly!!

Ronaldo’s brilliant 3rd from a counter attack was an icing on the cake. It took just 13 seconds from the time Vidic won a header inside his penalty area to score a brilliant goal. Ronaldo did a nice back heel to start the attack and was at the right place to put the ball from Rooney into the back of the net. The United team looked really sharp and Ronaldo put in one of his performances of the season. It is all gradually falling into place for United after a huge wobble in late March and April. The old swagger in attack is back and the defense is looking really solid with Rio and Vida back together.

United’s only sour note of the match was the needless dismissal of Fletcher which could mean that he misses the final at Rome.

Enough has already been said about the referee’s harsh decision and I feel that it would be a gross injustice if the young man is robbed of his dream appearance in a CL final. He may probably never get another chance in his career, in which case it will be plainly cruel! UEFA’s ridiculous response about not opening a Pandora’s Box by reviewing Fletcher’s case is just rubbish. Well, you cannot expect any sanity from an organization headed by the bumbling Platini, can you?

Moving on to next Semi, Chelsea got a lead through a stunning volley from Michael Essien. This guy just exemplifies the heart and soul of Chelsea football club, more than anyone else.

But, Chelsea sat back and parked a bus in its penalty area, preferring to hit Barca on the counter attack. Even though Barca launched waves of attack, it was always vulnerable at the back. However, Dorgba missed several gilt edged to put Barca away through his poor finishing. In the end his lack of composure in front of the goal came back to haunt him in big way.

The Norwegian referee too seemed intent on making the tie interesting by waving aside several Chelsea claims for clear-cut penalties. To be fair to the bloke, he just had an awful match. Chelsea’s claims of partiality and conspiracy deserve nothing but the sternest condemnation. They just didn’t get the rub of the green on the night. Barca too had several decisions going against them. Abidal should have been sent off earlier, but ended up being sent off for a non-existent foul in the 2nd half. In fact, I feel that Chelsea’s incessant moaning as well as Drogba’s frequent diving was chief reason for Mr. Ovrebo to distrust Chelsea’s claims.

Drogba, a self-professed diver tried putting on an Oscar winning performance, going to the ground as if lighting had struck him whenever a Barca player breathes near him! With every rejected claim, Chelsea players got more and more agitated, putting further pressure on the referee. In the end, as luck would have it, Inniesta scored a brilliant goal deep into injury-time leaving Stamford Bridge stunned.

Astonishingly, there was enough time for one more rejected penalty claim before the final whistle before the gripping tie came to an end.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not even for a second trying to justify the referee’s actions. Chelsea should have been the deserved winners. But, what I am trying to say is that Chelsea players have only themselves to blame for their defeat. They paid the price for not killing off Barca earlier. One can’t expect to defend a 1 – 0 lead against the team of the quality of Barca for so long in a match.

However, the behavior of a few Chelsea players after the final whistle should not be tolerated and must be sternly dealt with. Drogba should be banned from all European Competition for a long, long time after his petulant display last night at the end of the game. I think a minimum of 10 games will set the tone and show everyone that this kind of behavior from high profile players is not allowed or accepted. It was nothing short of embarrassing and I feel sorry for the image that this now gives to the world about Chelsea and the way their players behave. It is unacceptable and shocking behavior, and does not show youngsters wanting to break into the game how to behave.

The referee made a few high profile mistakes and should be punished according by UEFA, not manhandled by immature, overpaid prima-donna’s. The latest talk going rounds is that this is all an UEFA conspiracy against another all English final. What a load of crap!! I think it is time that that UEFA makes an example out of Drogba, Ballack, Terry and the rest of their tribe. Drogba should be made to think twice before he jumps even in a swimming pool in the future. Ballack should be made to realize that come what may, laying his hands on a referee again is a big mistake!!

Come on UEFA and FIFA, are you listening for a change. Please take stern action in this matter and show everyone that it is not a conspiracy!!!