Monday, March 12, 2007

Over and over

Gol! Gol! Gol! Messi! Messi! Messi! (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

A week that began with a whimper and ended with a bang. Knocked out of Europe on Tuesday night despite a 0-1 win at Anfield and staring down the barrel of a 2-3 home defeat on Saturday to a functional but rather unspectacular Real Madrid side, Leo Messi's late late show, securing a draw and his hat-trick may just have saved Barcelona's season. After eighty-nine minutes at the Camp Nou things were looking pretty grim. Down to ten men for all of the second half thanks to Oleguer's gross stupidity (giving away a penalty before a needless foul on Gago that earned him a second yellow and an early bath) and trailing to a Sergio Ramos header, with Sevilla playing lowly 'nastic the next day, the wheels had well and truly come off.

Never have I seen Frank Rijkaard so agitated, pacing up and down the touchline, his face a picture of despair. Rijkaard's 3-4-3 formation, the new black in Barcelona these days, with Oleguer, Thuram and Puyol at the back and everyone else powering forward was ruthlessly exposed by Liverpool on Tuesday, a game they ought to have put beyond the blaugrana well before half-time, and again against Real, with Ruud van Nistelrooy, Guti and Robinho all exploiting the space out wide against a hopelessly narrow Barcelona.

As the seconds ticked down toward a defeat Messi ran onto a Ronaldinho pass (just about his only contribution of the evening), beat two Real defenders and smashed the ball past Casillas. 3-3.

A Frank assessment

Taking a step back from the heroics of Victor Valdes in gol and Leo Messi up front, there was much to lament about the blaugrana on Saturday night. 'dinho was off the pace, Marquez sloppy, Thuram played like he'd suffered a blow to the head and the midfield got bossed out it by Guti and Gago (just quickly a mention of Diarra, who is a load of bollocks, doing little bar fouling and getting in the way. I've seen him play about ten times this season and he's been dire every time) Eto'o, taken off at half time in order to bring on Sylvinho, was decent but he's still not sharp enough. 3-4-3 will surely be given the heave-ho on the back of this, with the team looking totally unbalanced and wide open at the back.

Still, there was much to be positive about, especially after Tuesday night's limp performance, the team only coming back into the game when Liverpool took their foot off their throats, having been besieged by the Reds in the first half. Messi was amazing, Valdes, despite conceding three gols, made crucial stops from Ruud and Higuain. Belletti and Sylvinho shored up the defense when they came on and Iniesta was positive throughout.

Barcelona now have a week off to get their shit together before a trip to the oldest club in Spain, Recreativo Huelva on Saturday night. I'll post up a short postmortem of the Champions League debacle in the next few days, I really didn't feel like it at the time.


Mal said...

Great performance from the Barca fans last tue night. Best visitors to Anfield in a long time by all accounts. Stayed and sund well after the end of the game.

Xiao-bo said...

Great post. Messi's performance was legendary, one of those that people will remember for his entire career. And Iniesta, who's criminally overlooked sometimes, was just brilliant, I thought, and his tracking back also put Deco to shame.

The only objection I have is that it's a bit harsh on Ronaldinho to say that he didn't contribute anything all game until the last Messi goal. It definitely ranked as one of his quieter Clasicos, but he was involved in almost every dangerous play Barca had, and basically made the second goal with his quick-thinking move into the box and one-two with Eto'o. He created several chances and pushed until the 94th minute, when he made that move into the box that coulda-shoulda resulted in a penalty and a win. Although his goals rightfully overshadow the fact, Messi also had an otherwise quiet second half.

Not that I'm saying Ronnie shouldn't be slagged for not pulling it out during such an important game, mind you -- he should've done better -- but it's kind of bandwagon-y at the moment to say that he's poor, poor, poor. He wasn't, in my opinion.

Again, great post. Looking forward to reading more of you.

Thomas said...

Fair comment. I'm not one to lay into 'dinho, he's been below super human this season but he's still got 17 league gols and has stood up and taken control of games more often than he's rolled over. Certainly I have no time for the cules who booed him at the Camp Nou. However bad someone may be playing you don't boo your own players.

My "he did nothing" remark was unfair and I'm in no way jumping on the bandwagon. And I agree that Messi had a quiet second half, but he wasn't the only one. Barcelona were very much under the cosh and I thought they did well to keep Real from scoring until the 73rd minute. Time and time again they looked like they were going to fold, especially with Thuram and Marquez playing such sloppy futbol, but Valdes did what needed to be done and kept them in it.

Bibin said...

I though Ronnie had a decent night. Not anything by his standards.. He had a say in the last two goals. Thuram was the surprise. Loved puyol when he dribbled past some players to installl some passion in his team mates. Deco was awful. Loved ur site. Checkout my site for my analysis on the game. Give a reciprocla link if you like it.
All About F C Barcelona

Mal said...

Watched the classico with a group of Catalans, Basques and Real fans in Edinburgh. Very interesting watching the reactions from both of them as the goals went in. Messi is a genius.

Thomas said...

Bibin, consider yourself linked!