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Cristian Tello sums up my feelings nicely

Winning today's game was essentially Barcelona's only hope of taking back three of the four points by which Real Madrid was leading in La Liga. But both teams played in the semifinals of the Champions League last week and have the return legs this week, so tough decisions had to be made about rest requirements vs. reliability, etc.

As soon as we saw Guardiola's lineup, we knew that it was not going to be good. Midfielder Andres Iniesta on one wing, Cristian Tello starting on the other despite several shaky games, Gerard Pique (a.k.a. our only defender over 6 feet) on the bench, and most importantly, Leo Messi wearing several days' worth of stubble over a grim expression. After 17 minutes and a yellow card for Sergio Busquets, Real Madrid managed to score an awkward goal off a corner kick when Victor Valdes failed to hold on to Pepe's header and Khedira poked the ball through Carles Puyol's legs in the ensuing confusion. The rest of the first half passed in frustrating fits and starts, with Barcelona dominating possession but fumbling every opportunity to score. Both goalkeepers got some exercise, and Pepe earned a yellow card for tackling Busi, but the score remained 1-0.

Given that Tello was making obvious tactical mistakes, I'm sure that I wasn't the only one who fully expected Pedro Rodriguez to replace him after halftime. Instead, Xavi Hernandez was taken off for Alexis Sanchez in the 69th minute (and sat down on the bench wearing one of the saddest faces I've ever seen). Apparently Pep knew what he was doing because our little Alex scored a goal roughly one minute after coming onto the pitch. To be fair, it was a team effort by Iniesta, Tello, and Adriano, but Alexis was the one who took the final shot and then scored on the rebound when a flustered Casillas fumbled it.

The last good moment of the game

Unfortunately the team didn't get much time to savor Alexis's success: Mesut Ozil sent a perfect pass out to Cristiano Ronaldo, who tore down the pitch and put the ball into the next. And once they were up a goal again, the Real Madrid players parked the bus and displayed their mastery of the art of time-wasting - rolling and groaning and waiting for the medical team to turn up after every trip, making their three substitutions with excruciating slowness, etc, etc. Four minutes of extra time were not enough for the home team to equalize again. And to be honest, I'm not sure that forty would have been.

You'll notice that I didn't mention Messi's name at all aside from criticizing his facial hair. He did squeeze through the RM defense in the first half to set up Xavi for a sweet shot that was saved by Casillas... but aside from being hounded by the defense, bitching to the ref, and frequently losing the ball, he was largely invisible. Every player has off days, but without any genuine strikers fit to play this season, Barcelona has become so dependent on Messi that it's awfully obvious when he doesn't show up. It's a shame.

Anyway, both teams must have ended this game tired, but RM have an extra day to rest before they face Bayern Munich again on Wednesday, whereas Barcelona take on Chelsea at the Camp Nou on Tuesday. If both win by enough goals, they will face each other yet again in the Champions League final.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 22nd, 2012 01:33 pm (UTC)
Must have been so hard to watch.
And Tuesday's too soon.

without any genuine strikers fit to play this season
How did that happen?

Edited at 2012-04-22 01:33 pm (UTC)
Apr. 22nd, 2012 10:34 pm (UTC)
David Villa had a stress fracture in his tibia, which finally broke catastrophically in the Club World Cup semis in December. He's still not fit to play. Ibi Affelay tore a ligament in his knee during training and only recently received medical clearance but has not yet rejoined the team in an official game.
Apr. 22nd, 2012 04:40 pm (UTC)
In other sports news, we watched the Mets beat the Giants yesterday, and some journeyman pitcher threw a perfect game, which almost never happens. Different team.
Apr. 22nd, 2012 11:29 pm (UTC)
The Mets and Giants are baseball, right?
Apr. 23rd, 2012 12:19 am (UTC)
Yes! Jeff is the Baseball Fan of all time.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )



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