All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Posts Tagged ‘iniesta’

Barça Still Can’t Wrap It

Posted by hiphopmama on May 10, 2009

silva joaquin
Valencia 3-0 Real Madrid
     1-0 Mata, 28′
     2-0 Silva, 32′
     3-0 Baraja, 68′

abidal villarreal
Barcelona 3-3 Villarreal
     1-0 Keita, 11′
     1-1 Llorente, 22′
     2-1 Eto’o, 36′
     3-1 Alves, 45′
     3-2 Fernandez (pen), 78′
     3-3 Llorente, 90′

Let’s be clear. The La Liga title is still a foregone conclusion. With three games to go, Barcelona has to face Mallorca, Osasuna, and Deportivo, not exactly the Spanish Armada. Real Madrid awaits the challenges of Villarreal, Mallorca, and Osasuna, a slightly more formidable list. Real do have the advantage of playing those teams after they have been run through the ringer by Barcelona, but given the miraculous occurrences that would have to happen for Madrid to catch Barça, I don’t see anything changing in the current position of the top two. However, with the treble still on the table and two other competitions demanding their attention, it does make it interesting that Barça is forced to keep working toward complete supremacy in La Liga. 

 They couldn’t have known, but if Real could have put up a better effort against Valencia, they might have made up two of the three points they lost in last week’s Clasico blow-out. Instead, they barely even showed up and let Los Che run all over them in a similar fashion to what Barça did to them the previous week. To be fair, Real looked the likelier of the two teams to score in the opening minutes, but Mata was the one to break the deadlock on 28 minutes with a beautiful team goal. Just minutes later, David Silva doubled Valencia’s advantage by doing the unthinkable and catching out Casillas. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as all that, and it does little to hurt his claims on sainthood, but Iker dove and made it to the ball but still allowed it to trickle through. Instead of fighting back with any of the pride we thought they had, Real rolled over and died, letting Valencia pour forward and create opportunity after opportunity. Iker kept the score at least respectable, but even he could do nothing about the incredible goal Baraja put in on 68 minutes. He hit it off a volley at the edge of the box, a once in a lifetime strike, just absurd. I won’t even try to describe it because I couldn’t do it justice. Just watch the goals below:

And here’s the full highlights package:

Barcelona’s fortunes looked to be much brighter when they scored an early goal against Villarreal, as the Real Madrid loss gave them a chance to clinch the title with a win. Keita’s deflected shot put the blaugrana in front, but Llorente benefited from a rare Yaya Toure mistake to even the match. Barça triumphantly reclaimed the lead when Eto’o finished off a ping-pong session through the box, and they must have been prepping the champagne in the locker room after Alves drilled a free kick. But Villarreal wasn’t finished and spent the entirety of the second half, all the way into extra time, chipping away at that Barcelona lead, and you couldn’t feel particularly bad for them losing late in injury time after what happened at Stamford Bridge last week. The worst part of the whole deal for Barça was the damage done to their squad list in pursuit of this draw. Abidal earned himself a red card and a suspension for the Copa Del Rey final this week against Catalan rivals Athletic Bilbao, making it the second cup final he will miss. Worse, Iniesta picked up a knock that may put him out of the Champions League final and definitely rules him out of the Copa Del Rey final. The word is that he has a torn muscle in his right thigh, and it seems as if their fast and furious schedule of games is finally starting to catch up with them.

Goals:

Full highlights:

They’re not my team, but to be honest they deserve to win the treble this year and I hope they do. It was difficult to type that, but it’s true, even more so because it’s nice to see someone win while playing such beautiful football. They withstood all the negative tactics (read: Chelsea) and futile pursuits (ahem, Real Madrid), and still no one could catch them. The only team that can stand in their way at this point is Manchester United, and I hope to god Sir Alex and his minions get put in their place by the best team in world football. For once, in three weeks’ time I will be wearing the blaugrana colors. Vamos Barça.

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Champions League Finals Set

Posted by hiphopmama on May 8, 2009

fabregas manyoo
Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United (Agg. 1-4)
     0-1 Park, 8′
     0-2 Ronaldo, 11′
     0-3 Ronaldo, 61′
     1-3 Van Persie (pen), 76′

iniesta chelsea
Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona (Agg: 1-1)
    
1-0 Essien, 9′
     1-1 Iniesta, 90′ 

Apologies to anyone in the world who actually reads my soccer updates. I’ve been too disillusioned by the results of the Champions League semifinals to bring myself to post about it. Plus, with the Lakers losing game one of their series with the Rockets, it made three straight days of disappointing results for me, and it was too much for me to get over and start writing right away. I’m not going to summarize these games. By this point, you all know what happened anyway. What I will do is give my opinion on all the contentious issues. So here goes. 

There was no controversy to the first game. Arsenal got beat, flat out, and it hurt. It really hurt. This was the Gunners’ last chance at a trophy this year, and while I didn’t really expect them to win it, I didn’t expect them to go out like that. The first goal was just pure misfortune, with Kieran Gibbs slipping and allowing Park to nick it past Almunia. The second was pure Ronaldo. And the third was pure Manyoo, Ronaldo supplied by Rooney. Arsenal got a concession goal from the penalty spot near the end, but this was a rout and, sad to say, a just result. Where is Thierry Henry when you need him?

Oh yeah, he plays for those Spanish guys now. And those Spanish guys were taking on my other London favorites, Chelsea, across town for the final spot in the title game in Rome. If I loved Chelsea as much as I loved Arsenal, this one would have brought me to tears. The Londoners seized the lead in the 9th minute on a miraculous shot by Michael Essien, watched as Barça was reduced to ten men, and then stood helpless as Andres fucking Iniesta equalized and put Barça ahead on away goals with a great strike from 20 yards at the dead end of extra time. You all saw it, there’s nothing left to say about it. It was an incredible finish to an exciting game. But Chelsea deserved at least ONE of those possible penalties to be called. I thought the Alves foul was inside the box and Drogba’s fall to the turf could have gone either way, but there’s no point running all those down because the game was Chelsea’s to put away and they failed to do so. A lot of credit has to be given to Victor Valdes, who has been much reviled by many Barça supporters for failing to be Iker Casillas. And for all he has been guilty of in occasional missteps and less than authoritative moves for the ball, he was stellar in this most crucial of games and kept Barcelona within a goal long enough to let them get that away goal that put them over the top and into the final. Hats off to him for his work.

So now the final is set and we have the match-up everyone predicted going in: Barcelona vs. Manchester United. Pep vs. Fergie. Messi vs. Ronaldo. And it’s easy for me to root for someone in this game. In some sense, this works out well for me in that, even though neither of my teams won in the semi’s, it now makes it easy for me to root for the right team, which is Barça by a long shot. I am so tired of Manyoo running rampant all over everything, and although I’m not the biggest Barça fan in the world (it’s hard to be when you pull for Real Madrid), I will have no trouble pulling for them when they head to Rome in three weeks’ time. Messi for Ballon d’Or 2009.

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That’s the Season, Folks

Posted by hiphopmama on May 2, 2009

Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona
     1-0 Higuain, 14′
     1-1 Henry, 18′
     1-2 Puyol, 20′
     1-3 Messi, 36′
     2-3 Ramos, 56′
     2-4 Henry, 58′
     2-5 Messi, 75′
     2-6 Pique, 83′

Another clasico, another great game, but not another title for Real Madrid. That this game had any significance whatsoever speaks volumes of how the whites have turned their season around under Juande Ramos, because Barça’s early season lead should have been enough to put them definitively away long ago. Instead, the champions surged while Barça stuttered, however briefly, and suddenly the gap was four points heading into Spain’s biggest match-up.

But just as quickly, the title race was over. Higuain energized the crowd and his team’s title dreams with the game’s first strike on 14 minutes, with a header off a Sergio Ramos cross. Barça didn’t hang their heads, though, as they struck back two times in the next six minutes on goals from Henry and Puyol. Messi completed the first half romp with a third goal for Barça when Lass Diarra lost the ball to Xavi in dangerous territory and the spiky-haired Spaniard slotted Messi through. 

Real made it interesting again early in the second half, pulling within a single goal with a blazing header by Sergio Ramos after he earned the free kick that Robben sent into the box. Two minutes later, though, the margin was back to two when some more lax defending, and a failed off-side trap, saw Henry through to an on-rushing Casillas, who missed the Frenchman and watched as he lofted the ball into the back of the empty net. The last two were mere icing – Messi’s beautiful diversionary tactics at the near post and Pique’s bizarre run to the far post – and that was that. 

I won’t go into much detail, but Barcelona were by far the superior team, not just in this game but over the course of the whole season, so it was only right that they seal (just about) their La Liga title with a goal-fest against their arch rivals. Xavi facilitated absolutely everything; Henry sparked the front line; Iniesta made miracles out of nothing; and Messi was his typical brilliant self, and still the best player in the world, Ballon d’Or or no. They’re not my team, but I can recognize greatness when I see it, and they deserve all the accolades they’re getting. 

The only bone I’ll throw my Real Madrid team is their savior in net: Iker Casillas. San Iker. Saint Iker. How can you not love this man? Before Barça blew the game open, he made one incredible save after another to keep his team in the thick of things. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the best goalkeeper in the world. Not only does he make every sense he is physically capable of making – in addition to a good many he has no right to claim – he has the quickest restart and is remarkably accurate in getting the ball to the feet of his offensive players. Only Buffon comes close, but I gotta give the edge to Iker. Pure brilliance. Kinda like the Barcelona team as a whole.

p.s. Go Chelsea.

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Barça Alone At The Top

Posted by hiphopmama on December 7, 2008

Barcelona 4-0 Valencia

  • 1-0 Thierry Henry, 20′
  • 2-0 Thierry Henry, 28′
  • 3-0 Dani Alves, 46′
  • 4-0 Thierry Henry, 79′

The title of this post doesn’t just refer to their place in La Liga, which is nothing new; it’s about Barcelona’s utter superiority to every other team in Europe at the moment. I suppose there is a case to be made for Inter and even Chelsea until a few weeks ago, but I don’t think either of those teams or any other can hold a candle to what Barcelona is doing. They haven’t lost a game since August, and since then they have 17 wins and just 3 draws, including some mind-blowingly good showings against a range of opposition. There was the 6-1 pounding of Sporting Gijon, 6-1 over Atletico Madrid, 5-0 over Almeria, 4-1 over Malaga, and 6-0 over Valladolid. Their most impressive victories, however, have been the last two, when they absolutely dismantled a pair of top five teams in Primera Liga play. Last week, they demoralized a surging Sevilla side 4-0 on the road, and just this weekend they spanked Valencia 4-0 at home. While the goal totals have been impressive, even more notable is the number of clean sheets the team has kept. Sevilla isn’t exactly an offensive powerhouse but they do have some serious attacking threats, including Kanoute and Luis Fabiano, who had just netted a hat trick for Brazil in international play. They got under Fabiano’s skin so much – not a difficult task – that he earned himself a red card and an early exit. The Valencia scoreline was even more surprising for the way they kept one of the hottest strikers on the planet, David Villa, off the score sheet. Villa undoubtedly misses his attacking partner David Silva who has been out injured for a while, but that hadn’t prevented him from scoring 12 goals in 13 league games coming into the Barcelona match-up. Yet the Barcelona defense held firm and stubbornly denied Villa and his teammates so much as a consolation goal.

The element that makes Barça stand out from the pack the most is their complete play as a team. In top flight European football, everyone has a stacked line-up. Barcelona’s is no different, with Eto’o, Henry, Messi, and Bojan up front; Xavi, Iniesta (currently injured), Hleb, Yaya, and Keita fortifying the midfield; and Puyol, Marquez, Alves, Abidal, Pique, and Milito (also injured) manning the back line; plus Valdes between the sticks, just to name a few. The all-star squad doesn’t capture or explain their dominance, though. The complete cohesion does, and new coach Pep Guardiola has to be credited for that. With such an array of talent at his disposal, it’s quite a feat to successfully manage the egos involved and know how and when to shuffle the deck to get the best performance out of your team. Guardiola has done that almost to perfection this year, involving everyone to an extent and picking the right squads to get the job done week in and week out. His substitutions have been equally flawless, although the number of blowouts Barça has inflicted has made it unnecessary for him to perform much magic from the sidelines. 

For all their attacking prowess, the strength of the midfield and back line has been their anchor this year, allowing the wing players to storm forward and facilitate the offense. Xavi has once again been masterful in his role as the team’s ultimate orchestrator, pulling every string at precisely the right moment. And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a nod to Yaya, who has been a rock in midfield, winning a gazillion tackles and completing damn near every pass he attempts. His immaculate play has been absolutely central to the team’s success, and they would be foolish to leave him out of their plans, either by allowing him to languish on the bench amidst so much talent or by letting him make his way out of Barcelona. He has been repeatedly linked to his brother’s team of Arsenal – a scenario I thoroughly endorse as a Gunners fan – but I don’t see that coming to fruition. He fits with the Blaugrana and deserves to have his place with them cemented, at least for the rest of this season.

If it sounds like I’m gushing, I am. When I first started paying attention to the Primera Liga, I was a Real Madrid fan, largely because Barcelona’s performances were generally uninspiring with an uncommitted Ronaldinho leading the way and a failure to achieve what they could have. With all the typical strong-arm wrangling going on in Madrid and the ever obnoxious Ramon Calderon making his team difficult to like (to put it mildly), I have seen my allegiances shift somewhat. I’m not an out and out Barcelona fan – in fact, I’m not a committed ANYBODY fan really, since I have only been seriously watching for a few years. Instead, I just enjoy watching great football and I appreciate the teams whose style and ethic fit in with my own. Arsenal has emerged as my favorite side in English football, but I have been more equivocal in rooting for teams from Spain and Italy. This season has made my allegiances even more tenuous, and Barcelona’s team mentality and outstanding play make it difficult not to pull for them. If they keep up with this pace, I might be the latest in what is assuredly a large group of converts.

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