Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Great Goals Tonight: Essien & Iniesta

Hell of a soccer game today--it was the second leg of Barcelona vs. Chelsea.  Frankly, there hadn't been a whole lot to be excited about in the semifinals up until tonight.  Manchester United and Arsenal played a pretty slow game in the first leg, and Manchester had their semi wrapped up yesterday 15 minutes into the first half.  

The first leg of Barcelona and Chelsea was an uninspired 0-0 draw, with Barcelona controlling possession, and Chelsea not making the most of their few chances.  Tonight was looking very similar for the first 15 minutes or so, and then Michael Essien (who we have loved for awhile) came out with an absolute thunderclap.  THUNDERCLAP.  Watch the clip--you'll see Lampard putting a not great shot into the back of a Barcelona defender, which sends the ball crazily spinning high into the air.  Essien gets underneath it, and then he does this:

The rest of the game still followed the same formula--Barcelona controlling the ball, throwing defenders forward into the mix, touch passes, etc.  There were two problems with that philosophy--1) they were playing much like they did in the previous game against Chelsea, which was finding their final passes into space getting broken up by the Chelsea defenders and 2) they were awfully exposed at the back.  

Miwacar and I watched this game together, and we both agreed that something for Barcelona had to change--Dani Alves needed to start hitting sharp crosses, or Iniesta or Messi had to step up and start taking some chances.  All of that came together, in the 92nd minute, when this fucking happened.  This is a sharp Alves cross, followed by a nicely slotted pass, with Iniesta finishing with power and accuracy on a standing shot.  Impressive.

It should be noted that Chelsea maybe should have gotten a penalty kick here or there--Chelsea players are talking about a conspiracy against them, though it should be noted that Barcelona defender Eric Abidal was dismissed on a total bullshit red card.  So Chelsea players need to explain how the entire European Soccer community is against them when the ref sent off a Barcelona player for NOTHING.

Martin Rogers of Yahoo proclaims that the two best teams (Man U and Barca) will be playing in the Final in Rome.  He's right, but he does not mention the very real trouble the Barcelona defense is in.  Abidal (thanks to the bullshit red card from tonight) is out.  Rafa Marquez might not be back, due to health.  When you've got to defend Christiano Ronaldo, you need all hands on deck.

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