Saturday, May 28, 2011

90 Minutes of Excellence

With a 3 - 1 score and goals by all three forwards-- Pedro, Messi and Villa in that order-- today FC Barcelona again confimred why they are the Best Team in the World, with a dominant performance over Manchester United to win their third UEFA Champions League trophy final in six years, and their second trophy of the 2010- 2011 season.  With three Spanish League trophies to their credit in three years, and now this, football commentators are at last beginning to speak openly of FC Barcelona as the Greatest Football Team Ever.

Barca forward Pedro opened the scoring in the 27th minute with a low shot that drilled past Man U Keeper Van der Saar for the opening score, and for a moment it appeared that an early rout was in the making.  To their credit, Manchester United held their composure, leading to a sizzling curling shot by English playmaker Wayne Rooney that flew into the top left corner of the goal, equalizing the score and giving the Man U faithful hope that their side might yet prevail.  With each side having a goal, the half ended 1 - 1 and it appeared that a football match was on.

But as we have seen so many times this season, in the second half it was all Barcelona.  Playing their patented tika-taka style of ball-control football, the time of possession and shots on goal decisively shifted in favor of Barcelona.  In the 52d minute, superstar Lionel Messi, AKA 'Messi Wan Kenobi' scored his 53rd goal of the season (tying him with the obnoxious Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo for the most goals this season), giving the Blaugrana a 2 - 1 advantage... and now, the rout was on.  In the 69th minute Barca striker David Villa emulated Rooney's curling shot and sent the ball past Van de Saar into the top right corner of the net, and that was the final score, as Barca now cruised to a famous victory.

How dominant was Barca's performance?  According to ESPN, "The performance was so comfortable that Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was able to bring on regular captain Carles Puyol for the last few moments, giving the injury-hit defender the chance to play a part in a memorable triumph.

But in a gesture symbolizing Barcelona's team ethic, Puyol handed the armband over to Eric Abidal. His place on the team had been in doubt after he had surgery this season to remove a liver tumor -- and the France defender lifted the famous trophy."

And from The Telegraph in London, comes this: "Inspired by an exhilarating Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola’s team swept past Manchester United in a thrilling performance and, with their third title in the last six seasons, they earned the right to be called one of the very greatest club sides in the history of the game...

This, in 90 minutes of excellence, was the consummation of the Dutch philosophy imported to the club by Johan Cruyff two decades ago, refined by Frank Rijkaard and now perfected by Guardiola. The Barcelona manager was on this pitch when his club won their first European Cup back in 1992 but not even Cruyff’s dream team are a match for this gifted group. "

Indeed.  With 70 % of the total ball-control possession and an overwhelming advantage of shots-on-goal, what may be the most surprising fact of the night, is that Barcelona did not score even more goals.

So, my friends, a round of applause, and cheers and salutes to FC Barcelona, the ultimate Jedi Soccer team and now definitively the Greatest.  Soccer.  Team.  Ever.

May the Force be With You!