All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘messi’

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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Cuatro Puntos

Posted by hiphopmama on April 28, 2009

barca-valencia
Valencia 2-2 Barcelona
     0-1 Messi, 24′
     1-1 Maduro, 43′
     2-1 Pablo, 45′
     2-2 Henry, 85′ 

raul-metzelder-sevilla
Sevilla 2-4 Real Madrid
     1-0 Renato, 16′
     1-1 Raul, 45′
     1-2 Raul, 63′
     1-3 Raul, 66′
     2-3 Capel, 80′
     2-4 Marcelo, 90′ 

And they just keep on coming. I’ve all but written off their comeback effort multiple times this season, going on record predicting Barça’s league title and lauding Pep Guardiola’s team rehaul, but every time I check the standings the champs are still hanging uncomfortably around. They picked up two more precious points this weekend when Barça were fortunate to leave Valencia with a draw after a late equalizer from Henry while Real overcame a slow start to run rampant over a Sevilla team that was alternately breathtaking and head-shaking. 

Barcelona started in promising fashion, pouring it on Los Che and eventually breaking through with a typical Barça goal from a streaking Messi played in by a defense-drawing Iniesta. The Catalans continued their dominance right up to the end of the first half, when Valencia suddenly turned things around with two quick goals to send Barça reeling into halftime. Rather than coming out rejuvenated, as I admittedly expected, they were lackluster again and needed the full second 45 to build up the momentum to finally even the scoreline, as Henry did on 85 minutes off a corner kick spilled by Cesar. So while Guardiola got some intangible bonus points for bringing on Henry as a sub, he lost two very tangible ones in the race for the title.

Real Madrid opened their game in an entirely different manner, letting Sevilla run all over them and doing little more than look stunned for most of the first half. Then, just like Barça in the second half of their game, they started picking up steam and were able to tie the game off a Metzelder cross that Raul poked home under a charging Palop. Rejuvenated by the leveled scoreline, Real came out of halftime looking for more, which they got in the 63rd and 66th, both from Raul, who benefited greatly from Higuain’s set-up for his second and Palop’s mistake for his third. His hat trick should have been enough, but when Capel scored in the 80th Merengue fans got to nail-biting again. That is, until Marcelo sealed it with an injury time solo effort that he took his time to get just right. 

And just like that, Real were within four of the leaders going into the Clasico match-up at the Bernabeu this weekend. The first game between the two Spanish giants was Juande Ramos’ first La Liga game with Madrid, and even on such short notice he had his side performing admirably, holding onto a 0-0 draw until the very end before Barça poured two quick ones on them. Those were the only two goals Real Madrid gave up for quite a while after that as Ramos instilled a stouter defensive mindset before unleashing the full weight of his team’s offensive attack. Once the floodgates were opened, though, Real came streaming through and haven’t looked back, scoring in bunches (except in the Champions League, of course) and still managing to hold most opponents to limited opportunities. With Barcelona losing some of their luster in the weeks following their last match-up, you have to figure that this one is going to be an incredible, powder-keg of a game with both teams looking to prove a point while improving their standing in La Liga. Barça will be keen to prove that they are without a doubt the best team in Spain, if not the world, as well as to redeem themselves after a frustrating 0-0 draw against Chelsea in midweek Champions League play. Real will be hoping to shave three more points off that gap and close within one while proving that they are still a force to contend with now that they have closer to their full complement of players. Well, sort of. Van Nistelrooy is still gone for the season, Robben and Sneijder are out, and Pepe has gotten his stupid ass suspended 10 games. But none of them would argue against the fact that they are better equipped from a squad standpoint than they were in the last go-round. Should be a good one, don’t you think?

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Still Six Points

Posted by hiphopmama on April 20, 2009

Getafe 0-1 Barcelona
     0-1 Messi, 19′ 

Recreativo Huelva 0-1 Real Madrid
     0-1  Marcelo, 49′

Try as they might, Real can’t quite get over that six-point hump that separates them from class of the league Barcelona. That 1-1 draw with Atletico a few weeks back put a halt on their crawl-back on Barça’s tail, and since then they’ve been stuck six points back. Even worse, Barça seem to have refound their form and, while not exactly blitzing opponents like they did earlier in the season, they are winning consistently with little worry.

Both teams held ground this week by identical scorelines, 0-1 on the road to bottom-dwellers on the La Liga table. Barça were on the front foot the whole first half but only came away with one goal courtesy of Lionel Messi’s prodding run in the box on 19 minutes. Only Getafe’s new it-boy goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic kept them from pulling further ahead. A few failed efforts – and one incorrectly disallowed goal – later, Barcelona left Madrid with another three points.

Real Madrid had to slog it out a while longer to get their one-goal cushion as they looked mostly listless in the first half but came out firing in the second. Marcelo broke the deadlock on a lovely through ball from Gago and gave Los Blancos all they needed to stay within that magic six points of Barça. Robben created his typical slew of chances and, also typically, ruined most of them by being selfish and spurning the obvious pass. All in a day’s work for the Dutchman, who saw countryman Wesley Sneijder go out with a serious-looking injury. The latest word is that he will miss a month with a torn muscle in his hamstring, which means he will likely miss the rest of the season. Because Real haven’t already lost enough players to injury.

It continues to look like Barcelona will refuse to lose, no matter how much pressure Real put on them. The defending champs will obviously keep the burner on full boil to push them to the bitter end, as well they should, but I really don’t see Barça slipping enough to make it truly interesting. In the end, I could envision Real pulling to within 3-5 points, but Barça have too much of a mental and numerical edge to fade at this point. And congrats to them for it, because they have been the best coached and prettiest playing football club in the world this year, which is much more than you could say for Real Madrid. If Barça can continue their dominance in European play, they will likely be challenging for the three titles we all expect them to win. Take notes, Real – this is what a cohesive team looks like.

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Political Fandom And El Clásico

Posted by hiphopmama on December 14, 2008

Barcelona 2-0 Real Madrid

  • 1-0 Eto’o, 83′
  • 2-0 Messi, 90′

After watching this game, I have decided to never again give any grief to Yankees fans. Sports are not nearly as politicized in the U.S. as they are in Europe – I can’t imagine ANY game in the States having the same tension or potential meaning as this one did – but people often like or dislike teams for reasons other than anything having to do with their geography or personnel. I root against most teams from Texas because I believe the state should, indeed, be messed with, while my dad hates all things Boston because of the city’s history of racist treatment of its players (and, I suspect, because he’s a Lakers fan with a natural beef with the Celtics). The Yankees are the easiest to hate because of how incredibly high their payroll is, especially compared to smaller market teams, and it seems vastly unfair.

European football has a similar wealth disparity between teams, but the leagues don’t even pretend to regulate it so it’s less of an issue. What often matters more is what the teams stand for socially, politically, economically, perhaps none more so than in the match-up between Barça and Real Madrid. And while every bit of my conscience and political judgment compels me to root for Barcelona – or anyone besides Real Madrid, really – I still end up rooting for Los Blancos. I’ve given up trying to explain it. After watching the organization eat itself from the inside out, I’ve been somewhat turned off and have started to shift allegiances, willing myself to convert to the Blaugrana. But after this game, I realized I just can’t do it. I am stuck liking this team and will try to quit beating myself up about it. Because sometimes you just like a team with no good explanation, and that’s all there is to it. Yankees fans are no better or worse than me for rooting for an obnoxiously stacked roster and royally cocky management. Those things are just accidents and not the basis for moral judgment. I still choose to hate the team, but I will refrain from dissing its fans. And here ends my mea culpa.

The game itself was an embattled one rife with intensity from beginning to end. From the opening touch to Canna’s last-ditch attempt to prevent the second goal, both teams gave everything they had and it was refreshing to see. In an age of jaded, overpaid players, here was a contest that really mattered to all involved, and it showed in their committed play. 

Real Madrid played their hearts out, as was evident in their mud-caked uniforms, and they came painfully close to a 0-0 draw, which would have been as good as a win for a struggling Madrid team. Instead, it was a case of too much water eventually breaking through the dam. Real played better defense than I have seen them play all season long, holding a surging Barça side scoreless for upwards of 80 minutes, a moral victory in and of itself. Casillas saved their butts on numerous occasions, none bigger than the save on Eto’o’s penalty, and Madrid went into the locker room knowing they had had the best chance of the first half on a brilliant volley by Sneijder. Drenthe should have scored in a one-on-one encounter with Valdes, and there were a couple other chances left hanging. Barcelona utterly dominated possession in both halves, but Madrid defended with a fury, attempting to kick Messi into submission and playing wonderfully as a team. Sergio Ramos was started at left back in what turned out to be a great tactical move. He did his best, with lots of help, to keep track of Messi, and the team took turns chopping him down. The ref eventually started pulling the yellow card on it and it slowed down, but it had the desired effect early on. Yaya stormed forward a few times in the first half, as did Abidal, with Alves, surprisingly enough, being quite defensive-minded and making a number of key tackles. While it was a good half for Real, holding Barça scoreless, it felt more like they had survived than anything else.

Like the well-coached team they are, Barcelona remained patient and effective all game long, knowing it would pay off in the end. Real continued the good defensive effort, but it just wasn’t enough. When Busquets was brought on for Gudjohnsen, Barça immediately increased their upper hand as the sub was awarded a penalty after being brought down by Salgado in the box. When Eto’o stepped up to take it, you could feel hearts sink across the capital. And then the amazing happened. Iker saved it. Not just saved it – he blocked it out of bounds so there was no chance for a put-back. It was in-fucking-credible, and it was then that I knew I could not convert my allegiances so easily. I raised my hands in triumph and got set for what was sure to be a slog the rest of the way. From there it only got better as Iker made an insane double save against Eto’o and then Messi to keep the clean sheet. And for a while it seemed like we might have a chance at getting something from this game. 

It was not to be, though, as shortly thereafter Barça broke the deadlock on a corner that Puyol won in the air and headed to Eto’o, who calmly slotted it home. It was pandemonium in the Camp Nou. I was 100% in Real’s corner by this point, but I couldn’t help feeling good for all of Barça’s players, for whom it was clearly the most important goal of the season. After that, the resistance was broken and Barça got their second a few minutes later on a lightning quick counterattack that saw Henry set up Messi for the chip over Casillas. Iker could not have prevented either goal and was visibly devastated in the aftermath.

Despite the result, the Real players should be proud of their effort. They played possibly their best game as a TEAM this year, something that speaks highly of Juande Ramos in his early days with the club. I can’t imagine Schuster eliciting this kind of performance from the team, so Ramos should be applauded for his team’s preparation. Literally everyone gave all they had in the defensive stand: Ramos played valiantly against Messi; Salgado did his utmost tactically to stay with Henry and protect the box; the midfield and forwards tracked back with abandon to help out; Cannavaro stuck his nose out there every time, sustaining a knock against the goalpost trying to prevent the final goal; and Metzelder had his most impressive game since joining the side. It was a well orchestrated effort that showed what they were made of, which was much more than I previously suspected. Even with all the injuries, they gritted their teeth and made a game of it till the final whistle. As a newly minted bandwagoner, I couldn’t ask for more.

Highlights:

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Thoughts Ahead of El Clásico

Posted by hiphopmama on December 12, 2008

el clasico

Real Madrid makes the daunting trip to the Camp Nou tomorrow struggling to impart some semblance of order to their season against a Barcelona side displaying utter dominance in La Liga. Against any normal team experiencing Real’s current run of form and injury list, Barça would be virtually assured of a comfortable victory. However, with the contentious rivalry at stake and the symbolic importance of this match-up, you have to figure Real will be playing like their season depends on it and will have a decent shot at a good result because of it. 

That said, Barça are still odds-on favorites to win the game, especially in front of their home fans, and any tactical analysis points to an easy victory for the Catalans. With the ridiculous number of Real Madrid players struggling with injuries and suspensions to be served by Robben and Marcelo, the Merengues are really up against it even in terms of fielding a squad of their usual caliber. Based on their play midweek against Zenit in the Champions League and available players, it seems likely that Michel Salgado will have the unenviable task of tracking Lionel Messi around on the right flank. While Salgado has a great tactical sense and plenty of experience in big games, there is no way he has the pace to keep up with Messi and will need every bit of help he can get to keep him under wraps. The rest of the back line is likely to be filled out by Cannavaro, Sergio Ramos, and Metzelder in some formation with Gago, Guti, Van der Vaart, and Drenthe in midfield. And of course Raul and Higuain up front.

For their part, Barça’s lineup is likely to look something like this: Valdes; Alves, Marquez, Puyol, Abidal; Xavi, Yaya, Hleb; Messi, Eto’o, Henry. There’s not much to say about this group – it pretty much speaks for itself. This general assortment of guys has been kicking ass with no need to even take names all season long, and I expect nothing less this weekend. Xavi will, as always, be central (no pun intended) to the Barcelona attack, and Messi will probably be free to run wild all over the pitch, although with Salgado at left back he might be content to stay on the right. Henry is coming off an incredible hat trick – three goals all taken on one touch – in Barça’s 4-0 romp over Valencia last weekend. Gago will have a lot of work to do to protect a Real back line that has looked as porous as SpongeBob this year, and Hleb (or possibly Keita or Gudjohnsen) will surely look to stretch the Madrid  defense and create space for the three forwards. 

In particular, Gago will have to keep Xavi off the ball as much as possible to limit his ability to initiate the attack. Gago is a capable player, but I doubt he has the wherewithal to snuff out Xavi or the help from his team to effectively patrol the midfield. Yaya will have a similar role to play in stopping Guti from engineering Madrid’s offense, but I foresee more success for the younger Toure. I don’t think Guti has the ingenuity of Xavi, but more importantly, Guti has fewer real threats around him that Barça has to watch out for, which will allow them to zero in on him. 

In the end, I think Messi will run rampant and Alves will be a constant thorn in Real’s side, while Raul will continue his good form and Higuain will have another solid game, but all three Barça strikers will hurt Madrid and get the win for the cules. Prediction: Barcelona wins fairly easily, 3-1, and earns further breathing room at the top of the table.

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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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Barcelona 5 – 0 Almeria

Posted by hiphopmama on October 28, 2008

Barcelona continue to outpace Real Madrid, amassing La Liga’s best goal total and jumping to second place in the standings, one point behind Valencia and leading Madrid by goal differential (+17 vs. +11). Both teams are currently sitting on 19 points, but Barca have looked much more convincing in their wins, trouncing opponents and winning fewer nail-biters. Plus, they have not allowed nearly as many sloppy goals from the opposition which, of all factors, bodes particularly well for the Blaugrana. 

All five goals in this one were scored in the first half, with Eto’o netting a hat trick and additional goals from Henry and Dani Alves. They were all beautiful goals, built from typical one-touch Barca play. Messi in particular ran all over the defense, creating puncturing lines and creating gaps and then slotting back a pass right in front of goal. In looking back at the stat line, I’m surprised to be reminded that he didn’t score once during this game, because he was primarily responsible for a number of the goals. Alves got his first goal of the campaign off a free kick pretty straight away, a number of yards outside the area. The surface was slippery – as they kept on reminding us – and his well-taken shot broke through and skidded away from the keeper to nestle in the back of the net. 

Another impressive performance from Barca. Pep Guardiola really seems to have taken them to the next level, or, perhaps, back to that old level they were familiar with.

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Barcelona 6 – 1 Atletico Madrid

Posted by hiphopmama on October 6, 2008

What. A. Match. I thought the 6-1 scoreline against Sporting Gijon was impressive, but this one trumped even that. Three goals in the first ten minutes. Five in the first half hour. A brilliant strike by Henry for the sixth. Messi running wild. A gorgeous bit of control and power by Eto’o. Gorgeous. That’s all I can say. 

Poor Atletico never had a chance. They were missing lots of key players – Maniche, Sabrosa, Forlan, Seitaridis, Castro – but I don’t think it would have made a difference. Barce were out to make a statement, and Atletico were the unwitting victims. The storyline wasn’t hurt by the match-up of Messi and Aguero, two Argentine strikers playing at the top of their games. It must have been a factor in Messi’s unceasing aggression, as he essentially showed who was the superior player. 

Rafa Marquez scored on a perfect deflected header off a free kick by – who else – Xavi in the 8th minute. Shortly thereafter, Messi took one of his patented, unstoppable runs into the box, where Ujfalusi brought him down, and Eto’o converted the penalty. The next goal was bizarre. Barcelona were awarded a free kick just outside the area, and with Coupet still setting up the wall, Messi curled the ball into the net. The Atletico players were furious, as the referee hadn’t done his official “go-ahead-and-take-the-kick” business, but credit Messi for seizing the opportunity, I guess. Maxi Rodriguez momentarily made it look like a match when he scored on a beautiful strike from the edge of the box, but five minutes later Eto’o stretched the lead back to three goals on easily his best goal of the season. He controlled a long pass into the box beautifully, maneuvered left and then right, and put the ball past Coupet effortlessly. Gudjohnsen got in on the act by slotting home a rebound of Iniesta’s shot in the 28th minute, making for a 5-1 halftime lead. The pace slowed way down in the second half, but Henry kept it interesting when he drove a low strike through the area and past Coupet for Barca’s sixth goal of the match. 

This is how Barcelona should be playing every game, and under Guardiola I believe they’re fairly likely to keep up with the blistering pace. They’re challenging for balls, running all over the pitch, and generally playing like enthused little kids out there. They seem re-energized on both the offensive and defensive sides, with Puyol even coming forward on the right hand side to take part in the festivities. They are currently in fourth place – behind Valencia, Villarreal, and Sevilla, and ahead of rivals Real Madrid on goal differential. I was predicting three in a row for Real, but Barca is making me question that. It’ll be interesting to see how the season plays out.

Here are all of the game’s many goals, for your viewing pleasure.

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Espanyol 1 – 2 Barcelona

Posted by hiphopmama on September 29, 2008

This was another one with this scoreline that went down to the wire. Espanyol grabbed an early lead when Coro scored in the 20th minute off a spilled ball from Valdes, who had a pretty good case for being impeded despite the no-call. Barca absolutely dominated possession the whole way through (especially after Espanyol’s Nene was sent off in the 45th minute) but were unable to come up with an equalizer until the 84th minute, when Thierry Henry initially lost then retrieved a great long ball by Xavi. The rest of the game was played fast and furious by Barcelona, who had seemingly interminable opportunities go wayward. Finally, well into stoppage time (which was screwy after some fan disturbances temporarily postponed the match in the second half), Eto’o went down in the area and was awarded a penalty against Pareja. Messi casually put it away, and Barca went away with all three points, somewhat surprisingly. It was a controversial call, to be sure, especially in this Catalan derby, the last such match to be played in Espanyol’s Estadio Montjuic.

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