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May 28, 2009

In a sensational display, FC Barcelona defeated defending champions Manchester United to lift this year's UEFA Champions League Trophy with goals from Eto and Messi. By doing so, FC Barcelona became the first Spanish side to achieve the historic Treble in the history. I doubt whether any Barca fan could have scripted a better game; apart from the early ten minutes, this was "The Perfect Script". This final was billed a the clash of the Titans - Lionel Messi vs Christiano Ronaldo; eventhough Messi out classed his opponent, the two little midfielders - Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez emerged victorious. All the doubts of who will next Ballon d'Or and WPOY were almost settled buut Iniesta may ask some quastions particularly if he can continue with his excellent performance in to the Confederation Cup. Prior to the game everyone who knew anything about football singled out FC Barcelona's make-shift defense as the factor which settle this match. But they held on their own but I still believe it was that make-shift defense which encouraged Manchester United to open up a bit more than they did last season. FC barcelona's performance was so dominating such that English media may not come out with a conspiracy theory, like they do after any defeat.

It was a clash between the "Best Attack" in the world agaisnt the "Best Defense". But in the end the battle in the midfield settled the game. Iniesta and Xavi rans circles around Anderson, Carrick and Giggs. They dominated the match in such a way that we hardly saw Giggs with any possession. The stats from the game were staggering - Iniesta and Xavi were the best passers for Barca whereas for ManU it was Vidic and Ferdinand. Guardiola lined up a starting eleven as expected. Valdes kept the goal. Puyol played the Right Back, Pique and Toure formed the Central Defense and Sylvinho played on the left of defense. The midfield saw Xavi and Iniesta pairing up again with Busquets. The front trio was the familiar Henry, Eto and Messi combination. My only problem withe the line up was the presence of Busquets in the midfield but he proved my doubting wrong with a very good performance. From the start of the match Messi and Eto swapped their positions. Messi lied deep in the centre forming a diamond formation with the other three midfielders.

FC Barcelona started the game very nervously. Manchester United constantly raided the Barca box in the first ten minutes. Puyol was having huge problem dealing with Rooney's pace on the right. In the 2nd minute Toure gave away free kick from 30 yards out when he blocked Anderson. Ronaldo fired the free kick with blistering force straight at Valdes, Valdes failed to hold on the ball and Pique had to quickly intervene to clear the danger from Park on Rebound. Barca defense looked very tentative and looked out of place in dealing with Ronaldo's pace. In the 9th minute had a shot which just went wide but Valdes looked to have it covered. Iniesta and Henry who came off an injury layoff weren't having a great game in the first ten minutes. Then in the 10th minute Iniesta received a pass on the half line, he got between Anderson and Carrick and wasily speeded away from them, then he sent in a great pass to Eto on the right in the box; Eto turned inside Vidic before toe-poking a shot low at the near post of Van Der Sar. Eto had been struggling for form recently but that goal settled even his nerves. FC barcelona took complete control of proceedings after that whereas Manchester United were compeletly shaken. In the 16th minute Ronaldo got better of Pique but the defender stopped his run earning a deserving yellow card and conceding a very dangerous free kick just outside the box. Giggs resultant free kick just went high over the bar. Mean while the two lilliput midfield giants of Barca were taking complete control of the game. In the 19th minute Messi had his first shot when he unfurled a great left foot strike way outside the box which went agonisingly wide. Then Ronaldo and Giggs had decent half chances which both failed to deliver. In the mean time Iniesta and Messi started to combine way up in the middle and United looked compleetly confused about the entire proceeding. In the 27th minute Iniesta turned around the midfielders and set on a great run which was ended when he was brought down just outside the box, resulting in a free kick. Xavi's free kick went just wide. Then for some time Barca reduced the tempo but acme alive when Messi came to life again towards the end of the first half. Messi tested the defense with a series of spectacular runs one of them almost troubled the defense after Van Der Sar fumbled the initial cross. Then towards the end Iniesta played a delightful chip to henry in the middle which went just high.

Sir Alex Ferguson took off Anderson in halftime and brought in Tevez. they moved to a 4-4-2 formation. Ronaldo was pitted against Puyol but Puyol kept him under check. In the second half Barca's midfield took full control of proceeding and that means Manchester United never had any serious chance. In the 49th minute Iniesta broke off him marker and fed the ball to Xavi who inturn fed Henry on the left. Henry skipped past Ferdinand but was denied by Van Der Sar. Then in the 50th minute Eto sent in a great ball into the middle which missed Messi by a whisker with only Van Der Sar in front. Then in the 52nd minute Iniesta produced another great run which was again ended just outside the box when he was brought down. xavi's resultant free kick hit the post. Manchester United were struggling to retain possession throughout the second half. Feguson brought in Scholes and Berbatov to change this. Then in the 70th minute Xavi picked up a poor clearnace from Evra and sent in an inch perfect cross over Ferdinand's head to Messi; Messi did wonderfully well with the header sending it to the far corner of goal and sealing the match completely. Immediately Guardiola took off Henry and brought in Keita. In the 72nd minute Manchester United almost scored from a rare counter attack but Valdes produced an excellent save to deny Ronaldo. From then on Barca frustrated Manchester United with their possession game. Van Der Sar produced telling save to deny both Puyol and Iniesta late in the game. In the injury time Guardiola took of Iniesta, the best player on pitch and brought in Pedro with barca fans and players already ecelebrating.

As I mentioned earlier this was the most perfect match we played this season, especially considering the players we missed in defense. Iniesta and Xavi were the best Barca players on the pitch. Guardiola should be in cloud Nine after winning all the trophies in his debut year as coach. Alex Ferguson is a master in tactics but didn't read the game at half time. He failed to realise that ManU was losing the midfield battle. He should have brought in Scholes in place of Anderson but then I don't have any complaints. I had serious doubts about Busquets but he did remarkably well once he got settled after the first goal. It was great to see the likes of Sylvinho and Gudjohnsen enjoying this victory, both of them might depart the club in summer. This month has to be the best month for any Barca fan - three trophies bloody hell!! There could be reinforcements coming in summer but for now just relish on this moment. And this clash settles who is better - Christiano Ronaldo or Messi for now.

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