Lionel Messi sad

To some it felt like giving up. Tito Vilanova forgot he has a bench, but worst, he failed to realize Lionel Messi, the man his entire game plan is based on, wasn’t really fit for the match, thus sending Barcelona on something close to a hopeless mission, from which they return home battered and bruised like never before.

It’s hard to think of one player who was even close to solid in his performance, but you remember Victor Valdes made a few saves that denied further embarrassment from Barcelona, heading into the second leg humiliated enough after losing 4-0. Bayern Munich were the favorites going into the game, but no one thought it’d be such a one-sided affair.

With Messi looking like a shade wandering the field, unable to use his dribbling even once to create separation and some sort of havoc on the pitch, it seemed all was lost. Xavi was given relative freedom to control the pace and pass away, but the pressure Bayern put on Barcelona through goal kicks turned into a very organized and physical defensive stance once Barcelona managed to get past the halfway line.

Andres Iniesta was taken out of the game by Javi Martinez, and Barcelona’s options of doing something were truly over. It seemed all that was left to them was Dani Alves making something happen from the right, but each time he had a chance to put a cross or pass in, it went far, far off target. Barcelona’s special weapon, the pass over the defense to a breaking winger or defender was used only once, when Jordi Alba nearly reached a Messi pass.

And there were the “forwards”, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez, hardly touching the ball, and when they did, they seemed isolated from the rest of the team, doomed to lose the ball in a futile dribbling attempt against two or three players.

Barcelona were physically bullied around by a fitter, faster and better team. Tito Vilanova possibly realized it and decided there’s no real hope of doing something with the maestro limping around the field, looking like he can’t wait for it to be over. He didn’t replace him as well, and the first substitution came in the 83rd minute, right after Bayern scored their fourth goal. Pedro came off, and a man who should have started, and his presence was sorely needed, David Villa, came on.

A complete failure on all levels – from the head coach, to the shaky defense, to a midfield that was overrun and flattened by the Bayern bulldozer, to the attack, so reliant on one player, and completely vanished once he couldn’t function like his usual self. Tito Vilanova hasn’t had the most ordinary of years, and it’s hard to judge him by regular standards, but he simply offered up his team like lambs to a butcher, and did nothing about it while watching sadly from the side.

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