Thursday, May 28, 2009

Barcelona reach the glory in Rome

Barcelona proved to be the best squad in the world by beating Manchester United 2-0 and conquering the most wanted trophy in Europe: the Champions League

The blaugranas controlled the ball for long stretches with its unhurried and clever passing, attacked incessantly, held tight with a patchwork defense and made a tactical switch at forward, placing Lionel Messi as a central striker and shifting Samuel Eto’o to the right wing. Eventually, Messi drifted into midfield to secure possession. Both he and Eto’o delivered goals as Barcelona won its third European title and second in four years.

It will be left to Barcelona’s supporters to gleefully debate whether this is the Catalans’ greatest team, now that the first-year boss Pep Guardiola has guided his team to the Spanish League title, the Spanish Cup and now the European Cup with a style that is familiarly elegant and ebullient. For a night, it was enough for Barcelona supporters — seemingly the vast majority among 72,000 at Olympic Stadium of Rome — to celebrate with cameras that flashed like fireflies as the trophy was held aloft in a shower of confetti.

“We are not the best team of history, but we have played the best season in history to win three titles and the way we won,” expressedGuardiola, 38, who has won a European championship both as a Barcelona player and boss.

The Red Devils, meanwhile, lost for the first time in 26 Champions League matches and failed to defend its 2008 title. Even with four attackers in the second half, the English Premier League champions often seemed lethargic, uninvolved — at times unrecognizable — after missing several chances in the early minutes of the match.

So strong and constrictive on most nights, the Manchester United defense was unable to subdue the organized and creative Barcelona attack, which flowed with the inevitability of water through any available crease. Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester manager, dismissed his defense as “shoddy.”

Pep had urged his Barcelona footballers to be daring, and after the victory said, “We wanted to say we played and were not being cowards.” He added, “There’s nothing more dangerous than not taking risks.”

Barcelona’s one apparent weakness, a depleted defense, never became a liability. Dani Alves and Éric Abidal were suspended and Rafa Márquez was shelved with injury. But Guardiola found a reliable solution, placing Carles Puyol at right back, Yaya Touré in central defense alongside Gerard Piqué and Sylvinho at left back. They remained impenetrable.

Guardiola made another adroit move up front. Last year in the Champions League semifinals, Manchester United’s left back, Patrice Evra, had handcuffed Messi on the right wing. On Wednesday, Guardiola countered with Messi as a central striker, moving Eto’o outside. Later, Leo Messi retreated into midfield and, along with Xavi Hernández, helped Barcelona control the ball as if it were tethered to his foot. Sometimes, it seemed minutes passed before Manchester United could regain possession from the smaller, more dexterous Barcelona footballers.

“If they get in front of you, they’re very difficult to beat,” Ferguson stated. “They can keep the ball in areas of the field where it is difficult to protect.”

Early on, it was Manchester United that threatened to dominate. After missing several inviting opportunities, though, the team deflated, never regaining its spirit and vigor.

In the second minute, superstar Cristiano Ronaldo drove a low, hard free kick that bounced and could not be smothered by Victor Valdés, the Barcelona goalkeeper. Park Ji-sung, Manchester United’s tireless winger and the first Asian player to participate in a Champions League final, pounced on the rebound, but a Barcelona defender slid across his path. The shot deflected high over the crossbar. Ronaldo later lashed two shots wide, unfulfilled chances that Manchester United could not afford.

“Losing that first goal was decisive for us,” Sir Alex Ferguson stated. “We couldn’t recover from that.”

Barcelona quickly struck back. In the 10th minute, midfielder Andrés Iniesta, recovered from a thigh injury, played the ball to Eto’o on the right flank. Eto’o, a Cameroonian forward, cut sharply inside, turning the defender Nemanja Vidic, leaving him corkscrewed and helpless. Eto’o punched the ball into the net off the left hand of Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, giving Barcelona the only goal it would need.

After halftime, Manchester United clearly required of an infusion of energy, but neither the replacement forwards Carlos Tévez nor Dimitar Barbatov could kick-start a somnolent engine.

In the 70th minute, Puyol stole a pass for Barcelona, beginning a magical sequence that finished with Xavi chipping a superb pass from outside the area to a waiting Messi, six yards from the goal, unattended by two defenders. He headed the ball over van der Sar’s head and Barcelona took an insurmountable 2-0 lead. Now it is Messi, not Ronaldo, who is certain to gain favor as the world’s greatest player.

“We didn’t have to win to know he’s the best,” Guardiola stated.

In the end, though, Barcelona did win, primarily by getting the ball and refusing to give it back. “For us, we are a horrible team, a disaster team, when we don’t have the ball,” Guardiola admitted. “We need the ball. We got it” he concluded

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Prince William from England and King Juan Carlos from Spain to attend the Champions League Final

According to many news agencies, Prince William is to attend tonight's Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona in the italian city of Rome, in his capacity as President of the English Football Association.

In fact, the Prince will meet key officials and other dignitaries in private before the match, during half-time and after the match. The Prince will be accompanied by senior English FA officials, including chairman, Lord Triesman.

As for King Juan Carlos of Spain, he will also attend the match in support of Barcelona and Prince William will be granted an audience with The King before the match.

However, what makes this game so important that the royal families of both competing nations should want to be in attendance, when they can view proceedings from the comfort of their sumptuous sofas.

We could say that the Champions League final is the biggest, most watched and most eagerly-anticipated club football encounter in the world.

It's interesting to notice that Manchester United are the champions of England, Barcelona are the champions of Spain and, by common consensus, the English Premier League and Spanish Primera Liga are the two most glamorous leagues in European football.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thierry Henry ready to win the Champions League for the first time

French super star Thierry Henry believes he can fire the Blaugranas to an historic treble triumph in the Champions League final now he has rediscovered his love for football. As we know, the forward was criticised by fans and Spanish media for lacking the verve he showed at Arsenal following his June 2007 transfer from the Premier League club.

Despite the critics, Henry has been back to his best this season, scoring 25 goals to help Josep Guardiola’s team win the domestic League and Cup double.

A victory over Manchester United in Wednesday’s European Final game would give the Catalan club their first ever treble and confirm Henry’s place in the club’s hall of fame.

The popular "Titi" himself is just delighted to have finally become comfortable with his form in Catalonia.

“I think that I’ve definitely changed opinions about me this season. Now I feel the affection of the Nou Camp fans, compared to the really tough times with our home crowd on occasions last year,” he admitted.

"In fact, I like that people question me, I use that to motivate myself and try to prove them wrong. My opinion is that this is a club where, to triumph, you have to understand not only the fans but the club, the city and the fact that Catalonia is not Spain.

"I'm so eager to get the title and finally achieve the only crown i don't have in football. And it will be an honor to win it over one of the most powerful teams of all times, Manchester United" he concluded.

Apparently, Guardiola trust Henry's qualities and the Frenchman will be a starter in tomorrow's important game.

UEFA Champions League Referee: Massimo Busacca

In a very surprising statement, the main board of the UEFA announced that Massimo Busacca, from Switzerland, will performe as the referee for the Champions League final between Barcelona FC and Manchester United. According to the press in Switzerland, the quality of his work is flawless.

In fact, wednesday's final clash in Rome's Stadio Olimpico will be Busacca's second European club final, after the all-Spanish UEFA Cup title match between Sevilla and Espanyol in 2007.

We mus remember that he awarded visiting Manchester United a penalty for a handball after only three minutes of the first-leg match, though Cristiano Ronaldo shot wide. The match ended scoreless and the Red Devils won 1-0 at Old Trafford to reach the final, where they beat Chelsea.

The referee has officiated in 32 Champions League matches in his career, including United's 1-0 win at FC Porto to advance to the semifinals as one of six this season.

What's more, UEFA also appointed Busacca to referee the 2008 European Championship semifinal between Germany and Turkey.

It's interestin to notice that FIFA has selected Busacca on its list of referees for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. That means that in the end, he is a good decision.