Saturday, May 28, 2011
Barcelona Overcome United To Win The Champions League
It was an inevitable result wasn't it? I, being a United fan, had stupidly chosen head over heart and as a result ended up sticking a bet on David Villa to score in the 90 minutes with Barca ending worthy winners. I felt dirty immediately afterwards but I maintained I was being 'realistic'. When I told my friend of the bet he was inquisitive to why I lodged a bet AGAINST my own team. That word 'realistic' came up again and he just shook his head in disappointment. It really was an act of greediness - agreed - but I felt that no matter how United performed Barca would prevail as the winners. And that's what happened.
When news broke late in the afternoon that Darren Fletcher was beginning the game on the bench for the Red Devils question marks flew around the world suggesting that Sir Alex would choose lacklustre midfielder Darron Gibson or would he lean towards Giggs and Carrick trying to stifle Barcelona's irreplaceable midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta. There was also questions over how Sir Alex would go about stopping Argentine wizard Lionel Messi who was intending on breaking his duck on never scoring on English soil last night.
When the teams were finally announced there was an instant shock from both camps as Barca captain Carlos Puyol had been left on the bench - due to not being fully fit - and Dimitar Berbatov had been excluded from the United match day squad, replaced by veteran Michael Owen. Darren Fletcher also began the game on the sidelines for United, as Fergie had opted for an original 4-4-2 formation with Rooney and Chicharito employed up front as they were given strict orders to heckle the Barca players from the off. Barcelona displayed their traditional 4-3-3 with the only change being Mascherano in centre-back in place of the half-injured Puyol.
The opening ten minutes were arguably the most interesting of the game as both teams were pressing vigorously, trying relentlessly to regain possession of the ball which would subsequently be relinquished of soon after from waves of high pressing up the field.
However, after this frivolous opening exchange the pressing game soon died down - well for United anyway - and Barcelona began to string passes after passes, continually forcing United into gifting possession away time and time again. The Catalans were rewarded for their persistence with a goal just shy of the half-hour mark. Xavi, as resilient as ever, strolled through midfield and found Pedro on the right who controlled the ball and hit the back of the net after his right-footed shot left Edwin Vader Sar rooted to the spot. United then responded emphatically with Wayne Rooney grabbing a much needed equaliser just seven minutes later. The Englishman picked up the ball on the right side of midfield, played a neat one-two with Ryan Giggs before swiping home past Victor Valdes to level the playing field.
The half ended one-a-piece with United the happier team going into the break as they know themselves that they were dominated in about every department by a Barcelona team on the verge of greatness. However, Sir Alex would have to deliver one of his most inspirational team talks to date if his United side would defy the Catalan side and claim their 48th piece of silverware of the Scot's reign.
Both sides came out to a rapturous reception from their respective fans and Barcelona continued where they left off, pressing United into near-death. As a result, it was Barca who retook the lead thanks to a magical Messi moment. The 23-year-old Argentine picked up the ball 35 yards out before prancing forward unchallenged and unleashing a dipping, curling shot that evaded Van Der Sar and broke Messi's duck of not scoring on English soil in over 900 minutes. The response was inevitable.
United failed to ignite in the second-half and were second best to everything they contested which resulted in another Barcelona goal, the goal that effectively ended the contest. Man of the match Messi danced expertly past Nani on the right-wing before dashing into the box where the ball found its way to David Villa on the edge of the box. He controlled it and wrapped his foot around the ball so perfectly that the ball found its way nestled into the top right-hand corner. 3-1, game over. It was a contest for about 70 odd minutes or so but Villa's goal helped Barca to their third Champions League final victory in five years and its fair to say that they are up there with the greatest clubs in the history of the game.