Sunday, April 24, 2011

Messi Nets 50th, But United is Crushed by Red Bulls

Yesterday FC Barcelona recovered from its mid-week loss in the Copa del Rey tournament final, by defeating La Liga opponents Osasuna 2 - 0 at Camp Nou to maintain an eight point lead over Copa winners Real Madrid in the race for the Spanish League championship.  Choosing to rest most of the first team during this pause in the current El Clasico series with Madrid (with the two Champions League encounters between them still pending), Coach Pep Guardiola's lineup included first team striker David Villa, who finally ended his 11 game goal drought with a strike in the 23rd minute that put Barca ahead after Osasuna came out looking dangerously strong against Barca's second team.  Later Guardiola substituted Lionel Messi for Villa, who proceeded to give Barca another goal in the 87th minute for Barca's second goal of the night, and his 50th goal of the season.  The amazing Messi Wan Kenobi has now become the first player in Spanish League history to score 50 goals in one season, 31 of them in La Liga competiton.

But the big news was the end of David 'El Guaje' Villa's goal drought.  Brought in to replace the towering but immobile Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who in turn had been brought in to replace long-lost goal-scoring machine Samuel Eto'o, Villa has managed to post 21 goals this season--very close to the kind of numbers that Ibrahimovic posted.  Both Villa and Ibrahimovic each cost Barca over 100 million Euros to sign, but neither has measured up to the brilliant standards of Samuel Eto'o.  Still, despite the similar scoring numbers, it is clear that El Guaje is a more versatile striker than Ibrahimovic was, so Barca fans everywhere are hoping this drought-ending goal puts things right with Villa and he resumes performing again at the level of play everyone knows he is capable of, especially with two more El Clasico matches looming.

Meanwhile, here in America local side DC United was crushed at RFK Stadium by the New York Red Bulls, only five days after an inspiring 3 - 0 away victory over FC Toronto.  French legend and former Barcelona star Thierry Henry netted two goals, Joel Lindpere got one in the 76th minute, and rising US National team star Juan Agudelo put one in during injury time as well, to wrap up a thorough 4 - 0 crushing of DC United before the home fans.  United hero Charlie Davies was held scoreless for the first time in five matches, and the only celebration of the evening was the polite applause United fans gave Thierry Henry when he was substituted out of the match late in the game.

After the game, United Coach Ben Olsen said, "It’s a tough night for us.  We fouled up a couple plays that cost us. They’re a good team and if you make mistakes, they have guys who know how to punish you.  This is a process, and right now, they’re a better team than we are.  Are they 4-0 better than us?  I don’t think so, but on the night, I suppose they were."

United's next match is on Tuesday against the New England Revolution in a US Open Cup qualifier at the Maryland SoccerPlex.  Barca's next match is on Wednesday April 27th at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of the UEFA Champion's League Semi-Final matches, and will be without the services of defenseman Adriano, who is probably done for the season from the hamstring injury suffered in the Copa del Rey against Madrid.