Barcelona fans singing in the rain
In the 1992 European Cup final, an extra-time free kick from Dutch defender Ronald Koeman won Barcelona its first European Cup. Pedro’s goal in the 54th minute of yesterday’s Champions League semifinal second leg earned Barcelona a 1-1 draw on the night and a 3-1 aggregate victory over their biggest rival, Real Madrid, to send the Catalunyan club back to the venue of that first victory in 1992, Wembley.
Goals from Lionel Messi in the first leg, dubbed by some as the “game of shame,” due to the antics of players from both sides, gave Barca what turned out to be an unassailable lead over nine-time champions Real Madrid in a sodden Nou Camp.
In stark contrast to the first leg, this was a game befitting of the world’s premier club football competition. There was almost no diving and players who were fouled picked them selves up in a timely fashion. Barca, playing at home, dominated the first half with passing football that was a joy to watch. Their game plan was likely to get to half time without conceding a goal and then come out and attack. The fact that Madrid didn’t trouble Barca keeper Victor Valdes once in the first half is testament to that. Iker Casillas in the Madrid goal did his part to keep a clean sheet with a string of excellent saves. Following this season’s other four “classicos,” the game was 0-0 at half time. And like the other classicos this season, this match was set to be dominated by Messi and Ronaldo. Both players tried to impress themselves on the game, but Messi came out on top.
If the players restored some faith in football fans around the world with professional attitudes and a respect for the game, the referee allowed them to do it. Frank de Bleeckere was as much of a credit to referees as the two teams were to football itself. He booked Real defender Ricardo Carvalho early in the first half, yet resisted producing a second yellow on several occasions in an effort to maintain calm and keep the game flowing.
It wasn’t until the 54th minute that the game opened up. A brilliant through ball from Andres Iniesta left Pedro with the task of slotting the ball into the bottom right corner of the Real net with his left foot. Emmanuel Adebayor came straight on as Real made changes to try and get themselves back into the game. Minutes after coming on, a foul by the Togolese international threatened to descend the tie back into the madness of the first leg but sensible refereeing prevailed once again.
Real played with much more purpose in the second half, and even after Pedro’s goal seemed to have killed the tie off, Real were not giving up.
Barca passed at times with a confident arrogance that drew cheers from the home fans on more than one occasion, but an intercepted pass by former Liverpool player Xabi Alonso and the ensuing sequence gave Madrid some life. Alonso played the ball through to Angel di Maria, who lashed a left-footed shot against the post. The ball rebounded kindly for Madrid and fell straight back to di Maria, who cleverly picked out Marcelo - unmarked and screaming for the ball in the center of the box - who scored to give Madrid at least a fighting chance.
Madrid needed two more goals but Barca was not content to sit back and protect its lead. With Schalke and Man United surely watching in anticipation of a date in the final, Barca perhaps wanted to send a message to whichever team they meet in London and attacked at will, even though they had the game sewn up.
Javier Mascherano showed glimpses of what the first semifinal leg was about when he pathetically overreacted to a foul from Diarra, who was arguably Madrid’s best player. Adebayor was eventually booked in the 85th minute after a series of rough challenges, but by that time it was practically over for Madrid. Carles Puyol, the Barca captain and Nou Camp legend, was substituted by Pep Guardiola to a standing ovation and was replaced by Eric Abidal. If the applause for Puyol was loud, then the roar for Abidal was enormous. The French international was diagnosed with cancer in February and had an operation to remove a tumor in March. At the final whistle, the jubilant Barca players huddled together in celebration, with Abidal right in the center. To cap a night of pure football with none of the cynical diving and simulating that dogged the first leg, Abidal was thrown up and down in the huddle by the Barca players.
Madrid is now left to deal with yet another disappointing loss.
“Another [setback], like always,’’ Casillas told The Associated Press after Barcelona’s players celebrated on the pitch. “We’re not going to get upset because it will just be used against us.’’
Barca manager Guardiola was somewhat gracious in victory.
“The last 20 days have been really hard, a lot of tension,’’ Guardiola told The Associated Press before praising his opposite number despite matches marked by taunting, hostility and accusations. “[They’re] probably the best team in the world apart from my team, maybe.’’
Barca will watch the other semifinal tonight in a relaxed and confident mood knowing full well it is going to take a herculean effort to stop them from winning their fourth title.
By Rob McGovern [email@example.com]
한글 관련 기사 [일간스포츠]
바르셀로나, 레알 제치고 챔스 결승행
스페인 프로축구의 지존 FC 바르셀로나가 '맞수' 레알 마드리드를 제치고 2010~2011시즌 유럽축구연맹(UEFA) 챔피언스리그 결승에 올랐다. 바르셀로나는 4일 새벽(이하 한국시간) 홈구장 캄프 누에서 열린 레알과의 2010~2011 챔피언스리그 4강 2차전에서 한 골씩을 주고 받으며 1-1 무승부로 경기를 마쳤다. 바르셀로나는 앞서 치른 원정 1차전 결과(2-0승)를 묶어 홈&어웨이 맞대결을 1승1무로 마무리지었고, 유럽 정상 정복을 위한 '마지막 승부'에 나설 기회를 얻었다. 바르셀로나는 5일 열리는 맨체스터 유나이티드(잉글랜드)와 샬케04(독일)의 맞대결 승자와 결승에서 맞붙는다.
볼 점유율에서 앞선 바르셀로나가 전반적인 흐름을 지배한 가운데, 레알이 역습을 통해 반격을 펼치는 형태로 경기가 진행됐다. 수중전으로 치러진 이날 경기서 양 팀 선수들은 각자의 장점을 십분 발휘하며 치열한 공방전을 벌였다. 바르셀로나 선수들은 특유의 패스워크 축구를 앞세워 주도권을 장악했다. 사비 에르난데스와 안드레스 이니에스타, 세르히오 부스케츠 등 미드필드진이 활발한 패스로 중원을 장악하며 유리한 흐름을 이어갔다. 반면 레알 선수들은 다소 거친 플레이를 통해 상대를 위축시키는 한편, 역습 찬스서 속공 플레이로 득점을 노렸다.
선제골은 홈팀 바르셀로나의 몫이었다. 후반9분 안드레스 이니에스타의 스루패스를 받은 페드로가 레알 수문장 이케르 카시야스와 맞선 상황에서 가볍게 밀어넣어 선제골의 주인공이 됐다. 바르셀로나는 이 득점을 앞세워 골득실 차를 세 골로 벌렸고, 사실상 챔피언스리그 결승행을 확정지었다. 레알도 앉아서 당하고 있지만은 않았다. 후반19분에 만회골을 터뜨리며 추격의 실마리를 마련했다. 바르셀로나 위험지역 내에서 시도한 앙헬 디 마리아의 왼발 슈팅이 골대를 맞고 튀어나오자 디 마리아가 재차 잡아 옆으로 패스했고, 정면에서 쇄도하던 마르셀루가 넘어지며 슈팅으로 연결해 골네트를 흔들었다. 이후 양 팀은 추가골을 위해 공방전을 펼쳤지만 더 이상의 소득 없이 경기를 마무리지었다. 바르셀로나 선수들은 경기 종료 후 관중석을 가득 메운 홈 팬들과 함께 챔피언스리그 결승행을 자축했다.