Thursday, May 28, 2009

Barcelona 2 United 0

Apapun...semalam aku tak dapat tengok...just bukak tv waktu pagi nie untuk tengok keputusan jer laa...semalam memang aku penat dan mengantuk...balik keje pun aku terlena jap kat depan tv... so, tengok keputusan jer aaa...heheh ...sedih gak MU tak menang...tak pe laa...bukan rezeki kan...

We were told this Champions League final would be a game displaying the beauty of the counter-attack; no two teams in Europe more adept at carrying it out. But United would certainly have hoped not to be so heartbreakingly on the end of its devastation.

Twice United looked to be in control of proceedings here in Rome, and both times Barcelona hit the Reds on the break as goals from Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi secured a 2-0 win for the Spanish champions. Make no mistake, the intricate passing football of Pepe Guardiola's side was brilliant at times, and there is no real injustice in the result.

That said, United could have been two or three goals up inside the first seven or eight minutes but, sad to say, this was to be Barcelona’s night.

Sir Alex went with the team many predicted, full of pace and set up to counter. There were no real surprises in the Barcelona outfit either, Andres Iniesta and Thierry Henry recovering from recent injuries to take their place in the starting line-up.

Gary Neville was the noticeable absentee from United’s 18-man squad. The Reds skipper lost out to Rafael on the bench. And even in choosing the young Brazilian’s speed over Neville’s experience, it said everything about the type of game Sir Alex sought to play.

As kick-off approached, the teams tantalisingly walked past the trophy both clubs so keenly covet. Sir Alex passionately feels that his side have not triumphed in Europe enough but Barcelona, going for their third European title, would say the same. And so the stage was set for one of the most eagerly-anticipated finals in years.

The fans roared on the Reds, playing in white, as Anderson earned an earlyfree-kick with a cheeky nutmeg. Ronaldo inevitably smacked the resulting 25-yard set-piece goalwards. Victor Valdes struggled to stop it and spilled the ball back into Ji-sung Park’s path. But Gerard Pique blocked the rebound from the Korean, who was the first player from his country to play in a Champions League final.

It was a blistering start from United, attacking as expected down Barcelona’s exposed flanks. And on seven minutes Ronaldo, playing as a threatening central striker, sent another shot fizzing at Valdes. Seconds later another opportunity came his way. This time he chested a ball down in the area and fired a left-footed volley narrowly wide.

Barcelona’s fans were muted, their team were being outplayed. But in their side’s first real foray forward after ten minutes, the Catalans scored. Iniesta made a piercing run forward and fed Samuel Eto’o on the right; the Cameroon international cut inside Nemanja Vidic and poked the ball past Edwin van der Sar from eight yards. It was completely against the run of play, but this was always bound to be a contest punctuated by breakaways. Now United were on the ropes, and composure was needed.

Barcelona’s play was typified by Iniesta, who orchestrated their imposing short possession game. United had lost the speed that characterised the team’s early attacks and seemingly some of the patience to wait and pick the right pass. The fans didn’t lose hope, however, and in Ronaldo the Reds always had a threat, some hope, but something would have to change in the second half for United to turn the final around.

Sir Alex wasted no time and replaced Anderson with Carlos Tevez at the break. Could the Argentine make the crucial influence as he has done so many times this season? The Reds nearly weren’t given a chance to find out as Henry twisted and turned to beat Ferdinand before forcing an excellent point-blank save from van der Sar four minutes into the second half. Then on 52 minutes Xavi hit the post with a free-kick after Park’s foul on Iniesta.

After that the Reds had a really good spell of possession. The Barcelona fans whistled, largely because they knew United were becoming a threat. Rooney, now playing on the right, swung in a cross switch Ronaldo and Park both narrowly missed. Another right-wing Rooney cross was blocked by Pique, while the resulting corner almost found Vidic, who rose above the Barcelona defence. Promising, but not potent enough.

Sir Alex then made sure he had all his trump cards on the table, bringing off Park and putting on Dimitar Berbatov to join Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez in attack. But again United’s attempts were thwarted with 20 minutes to go; Xavi’s cross from the right tempted Messi, probably the smallest player on the pitch, to rise and head in a second for Barcelona. United had gambled – simply had to – and had again been hit on the break.

The final minutes were galling for United as Barcelona’s supporters cheered their team’s every touch. The Reds never stopped running or trying to attack however, as the fans who almost painfully sang; ‘We’ll never die…’. How true. Responding to adversity is a character trait ingrained in the club. Sometimes you have to suffer lows to revel in the highs. This wasn’t United’s greatest showing, but one thing is certain, this team will be back.

Barcelona captain Carles Puyol holds the European Cup aloft

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