Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Consolation Championship

The problem with being a fan of an elite team like FC Barcelona, is that merely winning the league title isn't really good enough.  Earlier this week Barca wrapped up it's 22d Spanish league title.  Fans of most other soccer teams in any nation would be thumping their chests to win their league title.  For example, when hapless DC United finally wins the MLS Cup again at some point in the future, you can be sure that the team's fans will go berserk with happiness. 

However, for Barca, any year they don't also win the Copa del Rey and the Champions League title, somehow feels sub-par.  The expectations for this magnificent team are so high and, frankly, unrealistic.  No team can keep on winning every cup and title in sight, not even a side led by Lionel Messi; and neither did Manchester United win the English Premier League title every year under Sir Alex Ferguson. 

This year in particular, the drubbing that Barca received at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League tournament, has really seemed to dampen enthusiasm for winning La Liga title.  Twenty-two league titles is an awesome achievement, especially since this is the fourth La Liga title in the last five years.  Yet somehow, it does not feel as joyous for Barca fans as it would in other years.

So, congratulations to FC Barcelona for yet another Spanish league championship.  For most Barca fans, it somehow feels like a consolation prize-- the consolation championship of 2013.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Barca Rebounds Over Betis

From BBC Sport:

Lionel Messi came off the bench to score twice in quick succesion and help Barcelona get back to winning ways with a 4-2 victory over Real Betis at the Nou Camp.

The Argentine has now scored 60 goals this season, including 46 in the league, and the Catalan club need only one more win - or any dropped points from second-placed Real Madrid - to regain the La Liga title from their arch rivals.

It was the perfect response for Barca after their humiliating Champions League exit to Bayern Munich.

Barcelona were forced to work hard for their win against an adventurous Betis side, who took an early lead when poor defending allowed Colombian striker Dorlan Pabon to run unchallenged into the penalty area and convert with a low finish.

Their lead lasted barely two minutes, however, when Alexis Sanchez headed in Andres Iniesta's cross from the left.

David Villa was then the chief culprit as the home side wasted several chances. The Spain striker missed four presentable opportunities, while Cristian Tello crashed a shot against the underside of the crossbar.

Betis then punished Barca for their profligacy by retaking the lead shortly before half-time, and it was a stunning 30-yard strike into the top corner from Ruben Perez, who had never previously scored a professional goal.

The home fans were starting to get jittery in the early stages of the second period, but Villa calmed the nerves by finally scoring as he met Dani Alves's right-wing cross with a far-post header.

And then it was time for Messi. The Argentine star, who did not start due to an ongoing niggling hamstring injury, replaced Villa before play even resumed following the latter's equaliser, and wasted no time making his mark as he stepped up to score with a delicious free-kick from the right corner of the penalty area.

Remarkably, Messi very nearly did exactly the same thing a few minutes later, this time with a set-piece from the left edge of the box, only for the crossbar to rescue Betis.

Messi would not be denied, though, and he soon completed the scoring by profiting from some wonderfully slick passing which culminated in Iniesta and Sanchez combining to create a simple tap-in.

Sanchez nearly added a fifth with a cheeky chip and Betis keeper Adrian's save denied Messi a hat-trick after a mazy dribble in the last minute, but the game was already well won and Barcelona will be crowned champions if Madrid fail to beat Malaga on Wednesday evening.