Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Best Match I've Seen Since...

... probably the world cup quarterfinals last year.

100,000 in the Nou Camp for El Classico as the giants battle to begin the final run-in for the Primera Liga title. In addition, with all of the good Argentine and Brasilian players representing both sides, this dish had a heavy dose of El Super Classico spice to boot.

And they wasted no time. It was high energy from the start. Madrid score kind of against the run of play in the 5th minute as RVN slots home easily after a defensive gaffe from Thuram sees the ball fall right at his feet with much of the goal open. Classic RVN fox on the box clinical finishing, although interestingly this shot was from 1 yard outside the box {dude scored only 1 of his 150 ManUtd goals from outside the box}. After seeing the best part of RVN's game we saw the worst 2 minutes later, when he ran at Oleguer, who withdrew his leg & foot as RVN tried to go by, but it did not a stop RVN from a world class simulated dive that even fooled the referee into awarding a free kick. Still-teenage Argentine wunderkind Lionel Messi equalizes in the 11th minute from an outstanding pass from Eto'o and it is GAME ON. Not a minute later Real earn a penalty when Oleguer kicks Guti in the box. RVN slots home for 2-1, and we're only 13 minutes in. Barca have a bunch more chances, and Eto'o looks totally sharp except for his final ball - he could have easily had 3 goals himself in the 1st half alone. But he looked 50 times better than at Liverpool in midweek. Hard fouls all around, and amarillas tarjetas start to come out. Real's Sergio Ramos was a lucky boy not to get a straight roja when he would up and kicked the fuck out of Ronaldinho, who the GolTV announcer is simply calling "dinho". In the 28th minute R10 has his point blank shot after a great run & give & go w/ Eto'o saved, but the rebound comes out to Messi who blasts it into the roof of the net from about 10 yards out - a much more difficult finish than he made it look. My Espanol is slowly improving, but even I could understand the new score as stated by the color commentator: "Messi dos, Van Nistelroy dos". Barca created several other chances but couldn't finish, and Real created a few themselves. Then 10 seconds before halftime Oleguer gets a 2nd yellow and he is off. Barca are reduced to 10 men, and shortly thereafter it is halftime. What an amazing half of football. No bullshit the score could easily have been 6-3 to Barca. Tons of exciting chances, end to end action, hard ass fouls, several yellow cards, and the even the dreaded red mist.

There was no way the 2nd half could live up to the first with Barca down a man and chasing, but it was still very compelling. Eto'o off for ex-Arsenal defender Sylvinho as Barca had to sacrifice to shore up their D {and still returning Eto'o would have only been good for 60 minutes, so this was a smart move in my opinion}. Still lots of action, and most notable Mamadou Diarra of Madrid was extremely fortuante not to be sent off. After a few hard fouls in the first half, he had two really hard fouls misway through the 2nd half that each easily could have been {and in the eyes of the 100,000 Catalans in the Nou Camp should definitely have been} yellow cards. This was notable because typically when a team is up a man the referee is much more likely to award them a card and specifically a 50/50 2nd yellow to send them off and even things up a bit. 10 v 10 for the last 30 minutes would have been absolutely epic. As expected, Real had the better of it with the man advantage, and RVN had not 1, not 2, but 3 different would be go-ahead goals stopped by absolutely world class saves my Matt LeBlanc Victor Valdez. Barca created the occasional good chance and came close a few times themselves.

Fifteen minutes to go and former fortunate Ronaldinho-hacker Sergio Ramos gets his head on a free kick from the touchline and deflects it perfectly off the crossbar and in - absolutely unsavable. 3-2 to Real Madrid and Barca were up against it.

Even after playing the whole 2nd half a man down and chasing the ball a good bit they were able to create a few great chances in the last 10 minutes and came really really close to equalizing, but couldn't. Somewhere in there Diarra had another really hard foul that finally resulted in a yellow card, and he really should have been off by that point but wasn't. Dude is very, very lucky to still be on the field. 4 minutes of added time, 15 seconds into which Messi drives past the Real defense and smashes a perfectly placed shot in the far corner to draw Barca level- what a mondo exciting finish! 3-3.

In the 93rd minute Ronaldinho had the ball near the corner with two men staring in his face. He takes them on and schools the first defender so badly that dude falls over, then he drives past Diarra who pushes him to the ground in the penalty box - pretty clear actually. Holy shit! This totally epic match is going to end on a last second penalty with Barca getting a 2nd goal in extra time with the last kick of the game a la Zizou against Engerland in Euro2004? Nope. The ref goes Lee Corso {not so fast my friends!} and doesn't award the penalty; instead he calls R10 for a foul. Diarra lucks out again - dude must have stopped off in the Chapel in the tunnel leading out to the field in the Nou Camp and prayed HARD today - what a lucky, lucky boy as the Brits say.

So 3-3 was your final. An Exhibit A advert for footy, especially for people who don't like, it don't get it, think it is boring, etc. Barca certainly had the better of it in the first half, while Real had the better of it in the 2nd, but overall I would say that Barca outplayed Real and that all things considered Real were a bit fortunate to come away with a point. I'm really not kidding that the final score of this match could have been 8-7.

Eto'o looks really close to being "back"; pre injury he would have scored at least 2 of 3 really great chances if not all three. And nutty to think that if not for the heroics of Barca keeper Valdez, RVN could have had a ridiculous FIVE goals in the Nou Camp {I wonder if any opposing player has ever scored 5 in the Nou Camp?}. Oh, and I guess Messi is back to 100% fit after his broken foot. Holy shit he was a dynamo today. Like Cesc, so scary to think that dude is still only 19 years old, and further evidence that aptly named Argentina coach Peckerman was an absolute moron not to play him at all in that World Cup quarterfinal against Germany last summer.

If the Inter-Milan match tomorrow is 30% the match that this was, then it will be 2 hours well spent that is for sure.

A demain mes amis...


Anonymous said...

A proper footie match wouldn't end 8-7. The spectacular saves on both Casillas (where he actually backfliped after tipping a ball over) and Valdes are just as amazing as the play on both sides.

Oh, that and bad defending. What happened to Thuram and Marquez? What is Zambrotta doing on the bench? Why isn't Puyol's hair any bigger? These are huge questions for me.

Oh, and RM was about 3 minutes away from sweeping the season series from Barca despite of the terrible season. :p Though, rumour has it before the match that if RM doesn't win Capello will be sacked. So... be on the look out for that (or as the Brits say, watch this space).

Anonymous said...

Your prediction was correct, I saw about 3 minutes after RVN's first goal... but I have it on tape and a date with destiny this evening.

Inter - AC Milan probably won't compare but it was a decent match in its own right...

oreo said...

I believe Zambrota was out injured. Great game, I'm glad both teams went balls to the walls out and left everything on the field.

By the way, Guti's play was incredible until he was running out of fuel in the second half.

Real could've pulled in within striking distance of a league title, but are still 5 points behind with time running out.