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Apr 10, 2008

Barcelona sets up Manchester United ClashBarcelona overcame a tricky challenge from the German side to setup a semi final clash with Manchester United. A Yaya Toure goal in the dying minutes of first half was enough to see off Schalke but it cannot be said that Barcelona had a great night. Barcelona included Thuram in the starting eleven in place of Milito and the rest of the side remained the same as the Getafe match except Abidal was brought in. As a Barcelona fan I am too used to seeing Barcelona controlling the game from the beginning. But this game was a different. In the first 15 minutes Schalke bombarded Barcelona goal mouth. In the 7th minute Valdes has to make an excellent save in denying Altintop from the scoring the equaliser in the tie. Then it was Kuranyi who did well to get in between Zamrotta and Thuram but to head wide. In the match report of the first leg I have written that Schalke had a complete control over Barcelona with aerial ball, they repeated the same in this leg also. In the 20th minute Jones saw his shot going wide; then in the next minute Kuranyi failed to connect properly to an excellent cross from the right. In the first 30 minute Barcelona could not match the physical presence of Schalke player and was outplayed completely. The rest of the first half was quite boring with both the team doing nothing in terms of creating goal scoring opportunity. Then in the 43rd minute Yaya Toure put Barcelona in the lead. That goal came from nowhere. Yaya placed the ball to the right giving Bojan the space to move forward, Bojan's cross hit defenders leg and flew up in the air, Schalke defender Krystajic in his attempt to clear the ball kept the ball in play and that too placed the ball in front of Toure who obliged by scoring his first Champions League goal. That was indeed a very, very luck goal. That goal eased up Barcelona and the realisation that Schalke has to score twice to go through gave more confidence in the second half.

Second half started in sharp contrast to the first. Barcelona started more confidently. In the 49th minute Henry shoots high after an excellent ball from Bojan. In the 51st minute Iniesta shot was parried away to safety by Schalke goal keeper. Then in the 64th minute Puyol picks up a yellow card which will see him missing the tie against ManU at Camp Nou. In the 66th minute Xavi shot from outside box was punched away. Then in the 79th minute Kuranyi shot was deflected by Thuram. The rest of the match looked as boring as it can get. Coming to individual performance Bojan looked the best of the lot; Henry and Eto both had a forgettable night. Abidal looks like completely lost.

As far the semi final is concerned, at the moment Manchester United holds all the positives. They are playing better as a unit at the moment, they have the advantage of playing the second leg at home, Barcelona looks in complete shatters; but then Messi should be back for that tie and that might be the match where he decides to show what he really is.


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