After all the talk, the hype, the fighting, the battling, the red cards, it was Lionel Messi who came out as the big winner in the First Leg of the Champions League Semi Final between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Two goals (the second on of his finest) from the world’s best player stood out in a combative match which had everything but good football. As you can tell by the 2-0 result in Barcelona’s favor, Jose Mourinho wasn’t happy and didn’t keep it to himself.
Well, lets begin with the juicy stuff and work our way back –
On the second leg and coming back from 2-0 at the Camp Nou – The return game is mission impossible. Barcelona has qualified for the final. Sometimes I feel disgusted about this football world of ours. Yes, we have already been knocked out.
On the match and his plans gone sour – We had the intention to keep the game at 0-0, then bring on a striker, then a third phase with a No. 10 behind three forwards. But the ref didn’t allow it.
Bitching about the past – I just have one question: Why? In each semi-final it is the same. We are talking about an absolutely fantastic team. Why didn’t Chelsea make the final? Why did Inter have to be saved by a miracle? Congratulations to Barcelona. But I just do not understand why Barcelona always receive the help of the referee. All my life I will be asking myself this question, and one day I hope to receive an answer. I am not too sad, I have a great family. But I don’t understand why Barcelona have this power. It happened two years ago to Chelsea, almost to my Inter last year, and also to Arsenal this year.
Conspiracy theory – Why do the opponents of Barcelona always have a man sent off? Where does this power come from? Maybe it is to give more publicity to UNICEF, maybe because of the power of Villar in UEFA.
And for the big finish, Guardiola – Barcelona are a great team on and off the pitch, but winning like that doesn’t leave the same taste. I have already won two Champions Leagues, and I won them on the pitch, with two teams that weren’t Barcelona. I won one with Porto, a small team from a weaker league. And I won another with Inter, sweating and fighting hard. Josep Guardiola is a fantastic football coach, but the Champions League he won was an embarrassment because of what happened at Stamford Bridge – it was a scandal. And if he wins it this year, he will win after the scandal at the Bernabeu. Let’s hope he gets the chance to win a clean Champions League , without scandals.
Guardiola didn’t make any comments regarding Mourinho after the match. He preferred to talk about the match itself and how proud he was of making it with 12 home grown players in the squad.
Now lets take a breath, and actually talk about the game. It was an ugly one. The tensions between the two clubs due to the amount of clashes this season, the media hype and their two managers dueling it out in press conferences was showing everywhere. Every tackle drew a huge uproar from the crowd. Every foul called or not got more and more plays involved in scuffles and arguments with the referee, who did a very bad job at cooling the flaring tempers and handling the situation. Maybe it was a lost cause.
A very aggressive first half without too many chances on both ends, as Real thwarted Barcelona’s passing game in the area they usually like, instead settling for meaningless passes in their own half while pretty much unable to create anything with too many players busy defending and with man marking roles. The one man who was suppose to make a difference and possibly create something for Di Maria and Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, had a horrendous first half. It happens to often with the young and brilliant German talent, pulling that disappearing act.
Too many diving or exaggerating from Barcelona players while a probably over-aggressive Real Madrid team (mostly Arbeloa on Pedro) led to something reminding of a bench clearing brawl in Baseball. Barcelona’s sub keeper, Pinto, was shown the red card.
Adebayor came on in the second half while Kaka started warming up. Barcelona seemed a bit more loose, and Mourinho was probably planning on adding more venom before his planned strike for the final minutes. Then came Pepe, and the red card. Now, lets begin with Dani Alves. Despite getting hit by a nasty challenge from the uber-violent Portuguese, Alves added unnecessary theatrics that probably helped the ref make his decision. Still, Pepe’s challenge was one of those potential leg breakers. I don’t think it was a wrong decision to send him off.
From there Real Madrid stopped playing and were just hoping to come up with a 0-0 draw. Mourinho couldn’t keep his mouth shut and found himself sent off as well. I wonder how long of a suspension he’ll receive after his post match comments are reviewed.
Eventually, it was Ibrahim Affelay who made the difference between a boring goalless draw and a 2-0 win that nearly cements Barcelona’s spot at Wembley. His stride on the win, beating Arbeloa and finding an open Lionel Messi sealed the match. Messi seemed eager to prove he can take on the weary Real defense on his own and 11 minutes later scored after a beautiful dribble and clinical finishing with his right foot. Eleven Champions League goals, 52 in all competitions this season. Eleven career goals against Real Madrid.
For Real, despite a tiny chance to stun Barcelona at the Camp Nou and maybe, somehow, manage to get it done in the league as well, it seems that his match today meant it’s another season that ends frustratingly, with no La Liga title, no Champions League title and losing to their biggest rivals when it mattered the most.