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Apr 7, 2010

FC Barcelona - 6, Arsenal - 3 on Aggregate
FC Barcelona booked their place in this season's UEFA Champions League Semi-Final against Inter Milan with a convincing 4-1 defeat of Arsenal at Camp Nou. Once again it was the night of the "Little Magician" from Rosario - Lionel Messi, who scored all the four goals for Barca. Arsenal took the lead with a goal from Bendtner, but was unprepared for what Messi had in hand for them. In the end it was yet another beautiful match between two of the most attractive sides in World football at this moment. Guardiola employed a 4-1-2-3 formation. I have to admit that I was quite worried about our full-backs getting exposed. As predicted by myself in the FC Barcelona vs Arsenal Preview, Marquez and Milito started in the centre of defense. Abidal was back doing his duty as a full back along with Alves. In front of the defense Busquets held the role of defensive midfielder. The midfield had Xavi and Keita in a narrow formation. And the attacking line-up had Bojan on the left, Messi on centre and Pedro on the right. Actually Messi sat a bit behind Pedro and Bojan.

FC Barcelona Starts the Game at a low tempo

FC Barcelona looked to have learn from the first leg and started the game in a very low tempo. The basic idea was to cut off any wide balls down the flanks. Arsenal also learned from their mistakes and was pressing very hard. Marquez throughout the game looked susceptible. Xavi was the outlet for all Barca move throughout the game. In the 4th minute Messi saw his shot palmed away by Almunia. In the 10th minute Pedro had a decent chance but he dragged his shot well wide. Barca were more interested in laying back and absorb the pressure, than attack from the onset. That tactic looked to have back fired when Bendtner fired Arsenal into a shock lead from a quick counter attack. In the 18th minute a great challenge from Diaby saw Milito losing possession (it looked like a foul at first), the ball was passed to Nasiri. Nasri passed the ball to Walcott who shockingly sent a poor pass to Bendtner which enabled Valdes to save the initial attempt but the rebound also fell to Bendtner and he didn't miss on that. But the pivotal moment in the match happened in the 20 th minute when Diaby on a counter attack failed to spot Walcott's run. If he had done that, it could have been easily 2-0 up. Arsenal was made to pay up for that mistake immediately in the next minute with Messi equalising. Messi received the ball from Pedro, tried to feed xavi on the box but the defense cut that out, but Sylvestre played the ball back to Messi who didn't need a second invitation before curing the ball into the goal. In the 32nd minute Alves free kick was saved by Almunia. In the next minute Barca broke on the counter which ended with Messi hitting the sidenetting. In the 37th minute Messi put Barca ahead with a move which was started by him and finished by him. Messi played a great ball to overlapping Abidal, Abidal's cross was poor as it was behind both Pedro and Bojan, Pedro tracked back and laid of the rebound to Messi, who got past Silvestre and clipped it over Almunia. That second goal looked to have unrattled Arsenal defense. The thrid goal came in the 42nd minute when Keita played Messi onside with a great header near half line. Messi set off on his run getting into the box, calmly chipping the ball above an advancing Almunia.In the 44th minute Messi had another great chance but his touch failed him in the box.


FC Barcelona Played Cautiously in the second half

Gaurdiola was hell bent in making sure that a repeat of first leg was not on the cards. We started pressing more in the second half giving less space for Arsenal to play with. There was a reluctance to atatck but the way we held onto possession was great. In the 49th minute Alves sent in a great cross which was just wide off a sliding Lionel Messi. In the 52nd minute Abidal was replaced following an injury with Maxwell. It looks like an harm-string injury. In the 55th minute Guardiola brought in Yaya Toure for bojan to shore up his defense. In the 60th minute Bendtner had a great chance but Milito did well to block that. Yaya Toure was struggling on introduction finding it difficult to settle into the formation. But soon he was back to his best. In the 72nd minute Pedro had a great chance after Messi played him on from a quickly taken free kick, but he shot wide. In the 82nd minute Messi sets off on another great run into the box, I lost the count of time he turned defenders inside out in that move but it was a shame that it didn't end up with a goal. In the 88th minute Messi sealed the game for Barca with his fourth goal of the night. Eboue played Messi onside, gets past Vermaelen but his initial shot was blocked by Almunia, but the rebound fell to Messi again and he made no mistake with that.

It was a great performance inspired by Lionel Messi. He has now became the top scorer for Barca in Champions League overtaking Rivaldo. We will now face Inter in the semi-final, a team whom we have already beaten this year. Xavi was simply awesome throughout the night, commanding ball like a General. Milito did very well with his job, eventhough it was his mistake that led to the goal. Marquez was pretty average at times and should have been in trouble. Bojan may not have anything special in terms of attacking display, but he worked really hard interchanging position with Messi and distributing ball well. Keita for me had a poor first half apart from the assist for the third goal, but worked really hard in the second half. Overall I have to say that I liked the way Guardiola approached the game. Eventhough the team's initial reluctance to attack could have hurt us, but that helped in making sure that we were not much tired at any time in the match. He did well with his substitution also, something unlike Guardiola. The only drawback on the night was the injury to Abidal.

8 comments:

nana said...

Well done boys.. now we can look ahead of the El-Classico. But bibin this thing is becoming too common. barca has scored more without ibra. but i am happy he is now getting into groove at this time. we need him most now more than ever.

Anonymous said...

Guess it's hard to say like that but yeh we have scored more without Ibra, but it's impossible to say how it would have been with him really. He did save us in England last time and hopefully this injury won't put him back being the guy with lack of confidence again.

Bibin said...

Yup, I know it's harsh to say that we play better without Ibra. This injury came at the wrong time, when he was returning to form. I am not sure how he will come out of it. I liked Bojan's work rate yesterday.

nana said...

actually i am now happy with ibra's performanace over the last few games. he seems to be improving and like i said it's the best time for the team if he keeps doing that. that way, he scores, messi scores and the league becomes ours as well as the UCL. Barca forever!!!

koorosh.fardipour said...

Perhaps one of the reasons why the team works easier without Zlatan,is that his presence reduces the level of creativity among all players ,in particular Messi. Yes he has scored some of the most decisive goals this season, but who knows how it would have gone without him, He has never come in, to change the direction of an ill-going match. On the contrary he changed the increased the tempo of a match, as soon as he was sent off by the referee. Sure he is one of the best existing strikers of our time, in my opinion, he has played much better in other teams, as FCb played a more rhythmic football with etto,o. I don´t mean that etto,o is better than zlatan, just look at him in Inter milan, He can’t perform as he did in our team. And some words about last night:
If things were not similar to the night in London, it was because Arsenal had a different attitude in the first quarter of the contest. They committed a lot of fouls and slowed down the speed of our team. Playing ugly football is not in their nature, they could not go on with that for a long time. They were Arsenal and not Espaniol. They were cracked and were outplayed in the end.
Messi was great. I have seen all the legends since 1968. No one was like him at this age. I am so grateful that I am witnessing him in my life. After the match, Arsenal boss said:
"He made the impossible possible "He has six or seven years in front of him, touch wood that nothing happens to him, and he can reach unbelievable levels.
Apart from Messi’s magical performance, much credit goes to a great collective work under the supervision of Maestro Xavi. Long live Football, “The heart of this heartless world, the soul of this soulless world.

Sumoflabarelli said...

While we're talking about Ibra - and looking back I seem to have slagged him off as much as anyone - it's worth noting that he played a stunning game at the Emirates, and since being handed the penalty a few weeks ago, has systematically set about silencing all his critics. We will need his physicality when faced with what the Real Madrid back line are probably going to do.

It'll be interesting to see where Guardiola plays Iniesta on Saturday night, what with Bojan and Pedro looking a little out of sorts; let's hope he fights the urge to play him forward and leaves him to boss the midfield with Xavi, who didn't give the ball away once last night.

And isn't it time we were put out of our misery and saw Marquez sold, he was iffy at best last night, and played Bendtner onside for the goal. He was so reliable last year but all that seems a long time ago. You could say he doesn't get a lot of first team action , but Milito has been off for nearly 2 years, and despite a moment's indecision which could have been a lot more costly than it was, he has played excellently every time he has been called upon.

By the way, did anyone else get fed up with Andy Gray on Sky Sports last night - Bendtner did well to get the second shot at goal but Messi got lucky when the rebound fell to him - it was like having fanzone on with no Barca fan there!

Bibin said...

Marquez is way past his prime, but I still think he can offer some cover to our team.

Leave Andy Gray. They are slowly coming to terms to brilliance of Barca and Messi. If you comapre with their attaictude two years befoire, there is a huge change.

nana said...

Bibin u are right about Andy Gray. the english media just can't accept to promote players not playing in the EPL. that's their problem. it can be seen in how often u hear Rooney's name these days and not C-Ronaldo. but sooner or later they would have to accept the plain truth.

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