Saturday, May 28, 2011

Champions' League Final: Barcelona v. Man Utd (at Wembley Stadium, London)

OK, so we are down to the final game of the 2010-11 soccer season, and it is a cracker: Barcelona (Champion of Spain and European champion in 1992, 2006, and 2009) versus Manchester United (Champion of England and European champion in 1968, 1999, and 2008). These are far and away the two best teams in the world -- whether you are looking at club play or national team play -- and so this is the best possible ending for the season.

Barcelona will be following their usual strategy of dominating possession, working the ball to their wizard-like Lionel Messi (the best player in the world), and falling down to seek penalties when necessary. Man Utd will respond with their intense passion and home country advantage (we are in England, after all).

No one ever plays a regular game against Barca; they are so good that most folks just try to hold the ball and keep it away from them. But Man Utd can't really use that strategy; they are an offense-oriented team themselves. So my own belief is that United have very little chance today. The team Barca really had to worry about was Real Madrid, who had the same manager whose Inter Milan team knocked them out last year. But thanks to a timely red card, Barca had 20 minutes to play against a 10-man team for Real Madrid -- and that was the difference. Today, I think they will win 2-0 or 3-1.


  1. Barcelona 1 - 0 Manchester Utd (27 minutes)

    As expected, Barca did not need help from the referees to win this one. Man Utd are not designed to win games by packing everyone in around the goal and hoping for the best -- and that's really your only hope against Barca. After 27 minutes, Barca was able to put together a little fast break which led to Pedro slamming a very easy goal into the corner of the goal.

  2. Barcelona 1 - 1 Manchester United (33 minutes)

    BUT WAIT! Just as United looked hopelessly outclassed, they score a goal in their own classic style. They take a pass from the sideline, charge straight toward goal, lob it into Wayne Rooney, who bangs it in from right in front of goal.

    If you watched those Nike commercials from the World Cup, you probably wondered why they gave so much prominence to Rooney -- given that he was pretty much useless in that tournament. But he just showed why he is so famous.

    So two goals in the game and none by Messi. That is a surprise.

  3. Barcelona 1 - 1 Manchester United (36 minutes)

    Barca come back with another set of nice passes, but they end up shooting over the bar.

    I mis-described the United goal somewhat. Rooney took the ball and charged at the goal. Then he did a sort of give-and-go play that resulted in the ball being sent back to him. And then he banged it in. Just a great play.

  4. Barcelona 1 - 1 Manchester United (40 minutes)

    Well, Barca took the ball back and went into their little "Tiki-Taki" offense with all sort of little passes. Finally, in a desperate effort to take the ball away, a United player crashed into Messi -- who immediately threw himself to the ground. Free kick from about 25 yards in front of goal.

    But it comes to nothing. Barca tries this delicate series of little passes that comes to nothing as the last pass leads the receiver a bit too far and trickles out of bounds.

  5. Barcelona 1 - 1 Manchester United (42 minutes)

    Barca had another fast break, but the last pass to Messi trickles just beyond his reach, and the chance is not taken.

    This is great, great stuff, by the way -- better than anything from the World Cup last year. Both teams just throwing themselves around the field at a tremendous pace.

  6. Barcelona 1 - 1 Manchester United (Halftime)

    Number3son reports that Josue -- a kid in his third-grade class -- wants to be a soccer player and has a lot of Barcelona gear. Josue will be somewhat disappointed that Barca hasn't already put this game away, but his guys still like the more likely winners.

  7. Barcelona 2 - 1 Manchester United (53 minutes)

    And that's why he's the best player in the world. Just as Barca settled into what appeared to be yet another round of little dinky passes around the penalty box, Messi saw an opening and blasted home a beautiful goal from just outside the box. It was a very English-style goal, and it has probably won the title for Barca.

  8. Barcelona 2 - 1 Manchester United (63 minutes)

    Barcelona are just totally dominant at this point. They have 14 attempts at goal to only 2 for United. Man Utd are now trying desperately to score, but as they press forward, they are simply making themselves more vulnerable at the back.

  9. Barcelona 2 - 1 Manchester United (66 minutes)

    Just to give you a sense of how things are going, in the last ten minutes the United goalkeeper has made at least four or five saves, while Man Utd has not taken a single shot.

  10. Barcelona 3 - 1 Manchester United (69 minutes)

    This will go down as one of the great performances in soccer history. After creating chance after chance, Barca cashes in another opportunity, as David Villa bangs in a beautiful goal from just outside the box.

    Man Utd lost to Barca 2-0 in the 2009 final, and they have given it everything they had today. But honestly, this is simply a hopeless matchup for them. It's not that Barca can't be beaten -- but they can only be beaten by a strong defensive team that can grind out a low-scoring victory (as Inter did last year). Man Utd are a fast-break team trying to play against a much better fast-break team, and that is always going to be a road to ruin.

  11. Barcelona 3 - 1 Manchester United (76 minutes)

    And let me put in one more word of defense here for Jose Mourinho, the Real Madrid manager, who came in for some criticism about the defensive tactics his team used against Barca. Putting your team into a defensive shell is your only hope against Barca.

  12. Barcelona 3 - 1 Manchester United (80 minutes)

    It is simply astonishing to watch the ease with which Barca is sweeping away Man Utd -- the same team that dominated English football all year. Barca have 17 goal attempts to 3 for United, and six corner kicks to zero for United. The whole thing looks like a typical Man Utd home win over some hapless club like Wigan.

  13. Barcelona 3 - 1 Manchester United (Full Time)

    A very, very easy win for Barca. They will go down in history as one of the legendary clubs -- like the Showtime Lakers or Michael Jordan's Bulls. And they were very much deserved winners tonight.

  14. Interesting report. Did Number3son go the distance?

  15. No. He made clear that he, personally, had no interest in soccer -- he was simply commenting on the fact that he knew about Barca from a kid in his class.

    Actually, none of my children will watch soccer at all.