Posted by hiphopmama on May 8, 2009
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′
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.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: arsenal, barcelona, champions league, chelsea, cristiano ronaldo, drogba, iniesta, ji-sung park, manchester united, messi, michael essien, pep guardiola, robin van persie, sir alex ferguson, victor valdes | 1 Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on April 28, 2009
Valencia 2-2 Barcelona
0-1 Messi, 24′
1-1 Maduro, 43′
2-1 Pablo, 45′
2-2 Henry, 85′
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?
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, cesar, el clasico, higuain, juande ramos, marcelo, messi, metzelder, palop, pep guardiola, pepe, primera liga, raul, real madrid, robben, sevilla, thierry henry, valencia, van nistelrooy, wesley sneijder | Leave a Comment »
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.
Posted in general, soccer | Tagged: abidal, arsenal, barcelona, bojan, dani alves, eto'o, gabi milito, hleb, iniesta, keita, messi, pep guardiola, pique, primera liga, puyol, rafael marquez, real madrid, ronaldinho, thierry henry, xavi, yaya toure | Leave a Comment »
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.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: almeria, barcelona, dani alves, eto'o, henry, messi, pep guardiola, primera liga, real madrid, scores, valencia | Leave a Comment »