Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mesmerising Messi wins the Champions Cup for Barcelona

Over the last few days, much had been written about & expectations had reached sky high on the eve of the UEFA Champions Cup 2009 finals between holders Manchester United & Barcelona. Many had touted this to be a dream final between arguably the best two teams on the european circuit. ManU had been the English league Champions while Barca had clinched the Spanish league in style. Both the teams had been on peak form going into the finals & a lot was at stake for both.
ManU had the chance of retaining the trophy for the first time in 10 years, while Barca had the scope of avenging last year's semifinals defeat to the same team. On paper, ManU certainly looked stronger & fitter, with players like Ronaldo, Rooney & Park upfront, with able support from Giggs, Scholes, Anderson, Tevez in the midfield & the return of Ferdinand at the back boosted their defence. Goal was managed by the ever reliable Van der Sar. The team was known for brutal power play & scorching pace. Ronaldo has been superb form of late & in Sir Alex Ferguson, the coach, ManU had all the experience & guile to retain the trophy.
On the other side were the Catalans, who were boosted by the return of Henry upfront and along with Eto & Messi, had a fabulous attacking force. This looked more threatening with the midfield maestros like Xavi & Iniesta in full flow. However, the defence did look weak in the absence of Alves & Abidal & it was left to skipper Puyol along with Touro & Sylvinho & Pique to put up the fight. The goal was managed by the ageless Valdes. The side has been a revelation this year under the new coach Pep Guardiola, who at 38 yrs was probably considered to be still learning the tricks of the trade. But, the former Barca midfielder had more than compensated with his passion & loyalty for the club. He had infused a pressing possession game along with a belief that had taken the Catalans to victories in La Liga & Super Cup & now were on the verge of taking home the Champions Cup.

The match, started with ManU threatening to tear the defences of Barca, & Ronaldo had earned a crucial free kick just outside the Barca goal. Valdes in the goal just about managed to block the shot, though he could not hold on to the ball, but Puyol made a timely clearance as Park faltered & danger was everted. For the first few minutes it looked like the English powerhouse would sweep away the Spanish Armada, but they just faltered to decieve. In the 10th minute, much against the run of the play, Eto received a beautiful pass at the edge of the box, from Iniesta & got clear of Vidic, who was slow on the move with a clean instep dribble & then beat the goalkeeper Van der Sar with a beautiful low shot into the corner of the net. Barca had taken the lead. ManU known to come storming whenever conceding a goal, were quite listless & barring some odd runs by Rooney & Ronaldo, they could not pierce the Sapnish defence. The deft short passing game of the Catalans gradually took control of the game & it was a treat to watch the small passes & possessional football. Each player knew exactly where to receive or push the ball & this spread over the green turf at both ends. Half time score sheet read 1-0 in favour of Barca & the Fergi's ManU had some serious thinking on their hands.

After the lemon break too the Barca looked in total control, with Iniesta & Xavi completely ruling the midfield & creating moves after moves. Van der Sar made some spectacular saves as waves of Catalans attack hit the ManU defence. A Xavi freekick hit the woodwork & a Puyol header went straight into the goalkeeper's hands. However, finally, Messi sealed the fate by heading in from a floater by Xavi, in the 70th minute of the game & ManU were completely dusted & buried.
2-0 as a final scoreline was poetic justice for the Spanish La Liga Champions, who could do nothing wrong this night, & Pep Guardiola was absolutely ecstatic with his team's performance. Xavi was the man of the match, as pure skills & footbal artistry won over the power & pacy games that the English sides play.
The match in itself did not reach great heights, as ManU were completely outplayed in all departments of the game.

Barcelona are now the UEFA Champions Cup winners for 2009.

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