Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Barcelona Light Up Bayern, Chelsea Dispense With Liverpool, Champions League Thrown Wide Open

Wow. I need to take a deep breath just so my fingers can stop shaking so I can actually type properly. Here are some thoughts on today's 4-0 brushing aside of Bayern:

1. Bayern looked shell shocked. The entire team with the exception of van Bommel (who somehow avoided getting booked despite elbowing Messi in the face) and Ribery to a more limited extent looked completely lost, and had no idea of what the hell to do. This was especially true after the first twelve minutes, by which time Barca were already 2-0 up. Again, I don't think this says a lot about Bayern's character or their fortitude -- I just think it says something about the type of team that Barca is (brilliant) and the way they play (relentless), and the fact that Bayern simply haven't seen this before.

Look, this is completely understandable (and I'm really not trying to be condescending or patronizing here): when you come across something you haven't seen before, you tend to freeze -- whether it's a killer job interview or a football match. Bayern froze, and now barring a miracle in 6 days, are out.

2. I loved the Sid Lowe vs. Raphael Honigstein "debate" on the Guardian blogs in the run-up to the game. Sid Lowe (their La Liga guy) thought that Barca would beat Bayern. Honigstein (their Bundesliga guy) also thought Barca would beat Bayern. This was a debate the same way the actual football was a contest.

3. You can't deny the impact of the injuries to Bayern's backline (or maybe you can, who knows?). I don't know enough about Bayern to say for sure if the replaced players Lucio and Lahm would have made a difference, but I do know that Bayern's backline showed an alarming proclivity to pass it to one of Barca's front five in their own half, consequently putting themselves under too much pressure. But in a way, you have to credit the Barca frontline for that (especially Eto'o), whose collective work ethic and chasing down panic-stricken defenders was almost cruel to watch. For all the flash and slick passing, one of the most important elements of Barca's game is getting after the opposition and not letting them settle on the ball. It's constant 90 minutes pressure, and combined with having to chase the ball for large stretches (don't know the stats, but the possession had to be in the order of 65-35), it wreaks havoc with a team's mental and physical well-being.

4. Messi? Yeah. For his performances this year, they should invent a new trophy -- all this World Player of the Year crap doesn't cut it. Give him his own mountain or Pacific island or something. One clear penatly denied, two goals, two set ups, about six or seven slick moves in and around the penalty area, about 17 run-by-the-guy-ostensibly-marking-yous, and about 40,000 migraines caused to Bayern fans.

5. Speaking of that not-given penalty, that has to be one of the worst decisions I've ever seen. Not only was it a CLEAR penalty, but the ref somehow conspired to give Messi a yellow for diving. Pep was INCENSED and managed to get himself thrown out of the dugout for his troubles. I don't know exactly what Uefa's rules are on rescinding yellows upon review, but if ever there was a candidate, this was it.

6. Ok, the neutrals and the Bayern fans are really going to want to smack me for saying this, but I'm getting kind of tired of Barca's habit of taking their foot off the pedal in the second half of blown-open games. Against Malaga, they have six in the first 55 minutes, none in the last 35. Against Lyon they had four in the first half, then added just one right at the end. I suppose it's natural to have a drop-off in intensity when you the know the game's over, but isn't it the manager's job to ensure that players play their hardest no matter what?

7. Rafa Marquez, you beauty. You did nothing all game except pick up a very smart yellow. Well done. For those who missed it, Rafa was going to be suspended for the next game upon receiving a yellow. Seeing as how this tie is basically over barring a miracle, he time-wasted his way to getting one at the end of the game. Brilliant. Now he's suspended for a near-inconsequential game, and will be back for the semis against Chelsea.

8. A big thumbs-up to Yaya Toure and Dani Alves, who kept Ribery and Toni from even threatening, let alone actually doing anything of note. Pockets and all that. By the way, shouldn't Ribery have waited until the final whistle to give his jersey to Henry? Or did he not think he was going to be played in the second half?

Quick thoughts on the other games:

Damn Chelsea, that was impressive. You know, it's clear that picking a winner in any game involving the English top four is a prognostication minefield. I don't know anyone who would have picked that scoreline before the day started. Well, there you go: that's why the games are played on the pitch, and not on paper.

Most exciting second leg award goes to ManU-Porto, where any of four results (outright wins for either, away goals win, penalties) could be plausible.

Arsenal aren't home free just yet.

UPDATE: Please watch this video of a 5 year-old Messi. By the way, I'm pretty sure one of those vicious tackles at 1:05 and 1:25 was by del Horno.


lala pathan said...

hah...i am happy and sad at the same time . one of my teams spanked and one got spanked. never thought chelsea will do as they did, but am very very happy to see what happened to MANUTD yesterday and for what barca did to klinsman...i don't think its wide open like i have been saying all along ...barca is gonna win it unless they get dunk or for some reason throw it away. :)

Ahsan said...


If/when Chelsea and Barca get through, I think you (and I, and every other Barca fan) are going to realize Chelsea are not an easy out, and certainly can't be as easy as Bayern.

Asfand (from the other thread):

Comparing me to a Liverpool fan? Yikes! Apologies for whatever brought on that comparison.

Adeel (from the other thread):

Yes, you were quite prescient on the need to grab an away goal because they were sure to leak some. I was actually quite surprised that when Bayern didn't go for it more in the second half. Even one goal (4-1) would have made the second leg interesting. As things stand, this is pretty much over, though of course you never say never.

Augustus Fink-Nottle said...

Good call on the scoreline Ahsan in your predictions, it seems I'm off by a bit unless Barca fail to score on Tuesday.

I hate to say it (actually not really) but I told you so about the Chelsea - Liverpool game holding surprises every year. I still don't know how the quality of the game was but heck there's always something to talk about.

I'm resigned to United losing at the Dragao in a week. Not strong enough of heart to accept Chelsea or Arsenal winning the Cup so I am waving Barca over the finish line for the remainder of the season.

Sad days.

AKS said...

My favourite quote on the Barca-Bayern game comes courtesy of Barry Glendenning over at Guardian's Minute by Minute:


45 min: Bayern Munich, to their credit, come out for the second half."

Asfandyar said...

I'm anxious about the Porto game too, especially as for the weekend we now have Evans out. Rio too, doesn't seem to be in the running - though he MIGHT make it by next Wednesday. If we can put out a strong defensive lineup and Fletcher plays, we might be able to keep a clean sheet. Let's see how we play against Sunderland though. We need a good scoreline to go with some confidence to Portugal.

I watched the first half of Barca v Bayern and bloody hell, despite Bayern's defense not being their first choice, they still had Van Bommel and Ze Roberto but they still got ripped to pieces. Astonishing football. Could've even had more! It was scary and enthralling.

Kudos to Chelsea too for having a go at Liverpool. They too could've had more if Drogba had been on better form. Watching Liverpool and their scummy, self proclaimed best fans in the world with their 'atmosphere' being quietened was brilliant. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Ahsan: That was because everytime you seem to talk about Man Utd in Champions League terms (especially in relation to last year's game) you seem to be spitting through gritted teeth :D Just reminded me of the bitterness exhibited often by Liverpool fans - but I was probably too harsh. No one sane deserves such a comparison!

Ahsan said...

Anyone else find it interesting that the half of the draw that was said to be tougher is basically done before the second leg, and the half which was supposed to provide two relatively easy games is still wide open?


Yeah that was a good one, but this line was better:
27 min: It's difficult to put into words just how under the cosh Bayern are. Their defence is in complete disarray, their midfielders have barely got a touch between them and their only chance of salvation seems to lie in the hope that their goalkeeper's injured face will swell up enough to block a decent sized portion of the goal.[he had just had his face split open by Henry's boots].

AFN: Still 90 minutes of football to be played my friend. Don't be so despondent just yet.


Haha I see, it's all clear to me now. But whatever did I say that was so controversial? Man U played defensively in both legs, that much is without doubt. Barca were also less than their best, that too is without doubt. That's not taking anything away from the ManU win, because any win in cup competition at that stage is huge, especially against a team which has one or two players that could change it in an instant.

But truth be told, Barca didn't even belong in the semis last year and only got through because of the luck of the draw (Rangers and Schalke in the two knockout round preceding the semis, if I recall correctly).

Asfandyar said...


What you said was spot on - or the gist of it essentially. United were very defensive last year - and tbf it was annoying but I don't care. It got us to the final, and that's what mattered most for us.

It was just the way you said it:

"It was goal dry because SAF parked the bus, taxi, horse, motorbike and fucking scooter."


adeel said...

yeah the shell shocked point is valid to an extent because they did let 5 through a few days ago, so it wasnt so much the scoreline as the complete inability to have any say in the games flow, after 5 mins of watching i told jawad possession in the game would end 65/35.

dont see barca getting more than one goal at allianz, if the backline is back (lucio i feel is bayerns vidic btw). dont see them putting in 4 or 6 either though so i guess it's down to CL next year without ribery :(

Augustus Fink-Nottle said...

Its difficult to look past Barca especially if they've re-rediscovered their mojo. Perhaps some freak injuries or suspensions could still have a role to play or the once in a while shooting blanks and hitting the woodwork multiple times before losing to a headed goal from a rookie defender.

Was Mascherano's true worth discovered yesterday? Maybe as Liverpool couldn't get the ball long enough to use it well enough. Maybe not as 2 of the goals were scored from corners.

Asfandyar, I know the Sunderland game is important in terms of a scoreline but for me those three points are most vital. I don't see the defence recovering suddenly. Evans will miss the game as you said and Rio might not even return for Porto at this rate. Sunderland can use Kenwyne Jones as an effective battering ram. Much as Porto used all three of their forward players 2 nights ago.

RIP United's season 2008/09

Shariq said...

The best side often doesn't win the champions league. Although barca are seemingly so far ahead that any other result seems implausible, Chelsea match up with them reasonably well.

Essien is possibly the only guy in world football who can keep up with Xavi and Iniesta. Cashley is as good a defender as any at left back and as much as i hate it, lumping long balls to Drogba is pretty effective. Finally, we just saw what Chelsea can do at set pieces and that's without Valdes.

On the other side watching John Terry trying to defend Barca's front 3 is going to be hilarious. If ever they needed Gallas.

Also, Howard Webb is an idiot. Couldn't they have made Messi get a second yellow to miss the second leg like Marquez.

zeyd said...

Picked up this tidbit from another forum:

The team that kicked the team that kicked Real Madrid since 2002 always won the CL:

2003 - Real lost to Juve in the semi. Milan beat Juve in the final.
2004 - Real lost to Monaco in the quarter. Porto beat Monaco in the final.
2005 - Real lost to juve in the 1/8. Liverpool beat Juve in the quarter. Liverpool won the title.
2006 - Real lost to Arsenal in the 1/8. Barca beat Arsenal in the final.
2007 - Real lost to Bayern in the 1/8. Milan beat Bayern in the quarter. Milan won the title.
2008 - Real lost to Roma in the 1/8. Man Utd beat Roma in the quarter. Man Utd won the title
2009 - Real lost to Liverpool in the 1/8...

How crazy is that?

Ahsan said...


Are you so sure that you're losing Franck? I know there's been a lot of talk (esp. wrt to Barca and City) but there's always a lot of talk.


Not just Mascherano, but Essien's true worth was discovered yesterday. I also said on this blog a couple of weeks ago that Mascherano is a better player (i.e. more important) than Gerrard.


Yeah, excellent point about the way Chelsea match up. It's going to be a humdinger.


Hahaha I saw that elsewhere too and I had a bet with myself to see how long it would take you to notice. Chelsea can definitely win the entire thing, but let's not hang our hats on freak historical trends, shall we?