May 28, 2011

Barcelona wins Champions League: After keeping pace for the first half, United were outdone by Barca's pace and passing. Messi only scored one of the three but he was the master of the ball and even Xavi stood second to him on this Wembley night.

posted by billsaysthis to soccer at 06:01 PM - 8 comments

Spain go top the nations table with this 13th European club title (England would have tied Spain and Italy had the Red Devils done the business).

In a lovely note Abidal went 90 minutes just months after surgery for stomach cancer and was never really beaten by Valencia or Fabio.

Berbatov didn't even make the bench, Michael Owen got the shout (albeit not getting on the pitch) so one must wonder if his time at Old Trafford is done. Despite winning the Premier League Golden Boot this season.

Speaking of endings, will this be Guardiola's last game in charge of Barca? I don't understand why this rumor has such legs, Pep has been at Camp Neu since his teens and could build a legacy like Ferguson's if he stays.

Europe remains mostly a bridge too far for Sir Alex as Guardiola now matches his two CL trophies, in 1/8 as many seasons in charge.

posted by billsaysthis at 06:08 PM on May 28

Barcelona are a bit good.

I wondered if the nervy start was down to the pitch -- it had rained in London and the grass seemed to slow up their passing -- but once they got in gear, even with the equaliser, they never really looked beatable. If you get a chance to see the replay of the first goal, it's Messi's angled run that draws Valencia away, giving Pedro the space and time to pick his spot.

I'm sure that there'll be a tactical breakdown to follow, but Ferguson seems to have directed Rooney to play up and not defend back, and Guardiola seemed to have his midfield on instruction to bypass him completely. At least, that was my take on the touchline exchange in the first half.

posted by etagloh at 06:51 PM on May 28

I can't believe how comfortable Man U let Barca become in front of their goal. The Barca goals were brilliant, but the scorers were left far too open in close.

Messi's goal was incredibly well shot. If you're going to get beat, at least the go-ahead was a shot like that.

Barca's Javier Mascherano dedicated the victory in part to Liverpool. Bet Man U fans loved that.

posted by rcade at 09:51 PM on May 28

Barcelona are impossible to defend against; every one of them has an exquisite first touch, every one one of them knows how to make space, and to find space, and to get away from man marker, every one of them can weigh a pass, it is bewildering to watch, to play against must be a dizzying nightmare.

Manchester did OK, and were very competitive, which made for a good match, but the result never really seemed in doubt.

Hurray for the midgets!

posted by Fat Buddha at 07:19 AM on May 29

Everything in sport is about space and time. The Barca players create both exquisitely well because their first touch - a basic but vital skill - tends to be excellent. Everything else flows from there. If you can create space and time for yourself, it's like you're putting the other team into some sort of slow motion hell where they can't react fast enough to what you're doing. All of that time and space allows them to starve the opposition of possession, so that when the opposition do occasionally get hold of the ball the pressure to make it count is overwhelming and they end up snatching at chances. They smother the opposition until their legs stop twitching. It's impressive, even if it's not to my taste.

posted by JJ at 07:53 AM on May 29

I thought it was a bit odd for Ferguson to try to play a version of 4-4-2 and then pick Giggs. With two in the middle you're going to have to have bunches of energy to keep up with Barca's ball movement and while Giggs has experience in spades you have to question if he still has the legs to keep up with that for 90 minutes.

United seemed to be dropping Valencia in narrow to try to help out, choosing to allow Abidal time on the ball, and Rooney was coming deep too, but it's always tough to tell if that's a tactical decision or Rooney becoming frustrated from not seeing the ball.

I thought at first we were seeing a version of Bob Bradley's efforts against Spain - draw them up, allow the fullbacks forward and then hit the edges of the defence, with quick direct passing. An early view of an animated Ferguson had him jabbing his fingers outward, shouting at his midfield to get wide when they won the ball, but it may just have been Alex was trying to defend everywhere.

Personally, if I wanted to play two up I would have gone with an asymmetrical line of Rooney centrally and Nani pushed way up on either flank in a version of Spain's crooked 4-4-1-1 from the World Cup. Of course, I always know better than SAF...

posted by Mr Bismarck at 08:38 AM on May 29

I was surprised Anderson wasn't paired with Carrick, that seemed to be the takeaway from Mourinho's use of Pepe in the four Barca-Real Madrid bouts. If Ferguson felt he had to have Giggs on the pitch, put him on the left in place of Park.

posted by billsaysthis at 02:03 PM on May 29

The problem if you put Giggs on the left is there's no way he's tracking Alves' runs. It really was a pick your poison evening for Ferguson. I just don't think he narrowed his range of poison options by combining a 442 with Giggs.

Good game, anyway. I was happy to see some good goals and very little in the way of ref-baiting antics.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 02:50 PM on May 29

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