Thursday, May 18, 2006

Champions League Final

Barcelona 2 - 1 Arsenal
The dream final, they called this one. And it was memorable, but not exactly for the reasons everyone expected. Ronaldinho was merely good but not brilliant. Thierry Henry failed to score in what was probably the most important game of his career. And then there was that inevitable moment of lunacy from Mad Jens when he hauled down Ludovic Giuly.

All credit to Arsenal, because they certainly didn't play like they were a man down. They even went ahead, thanks to Emmanuel Eboue diving on the edge of the Barcelona box, and Sol Campbell heading the resulting free kick into the back of the net. And they could have extended their lead, if not for some missed chances in the second half. But the Gunners just couldn't hold out long enough, and when Samuel Eto'o finally slipped through the defence to equalize in the 75th minute, you could almost see the fight drain out of them. It wasn't a surprise when Barcelona scored again less than five minutes later.

After that Barca just held onto the ball and ran down the clock, but up until then it had been a fantastic game to watch as a neutral. Barcelona and Arsenal are supposedly two of the most stylish teams in European football, and there was certainly some pretty passing, but also lots of scything challenges -- although the pouring rain probably contributed to that. I half expected to see pairs of animals lining up along the touchline.

The good news for England fans is that Sol Campbell was solid at the back, so he's probably not going to have another wobbly in the next couple of months, and Ashley Cole looked good as well (aside from his ridiculous chin pubes; what, he couldn't find time to shave properly during all those months he was out?). The bad news is that they'll have to face Henrik Larsson when they play Sweden, and he's the one who created both goals for Barcelona.

You know, I like Thierry Henry -- he's extremely talented and he usually seems like a classy player. So I'm disappointed that he decided to take a page out of Jose Mourinho's Big Book Of Whiny Crybaby Excuses, and blame the referee. Yes, the refereeing wasn't great, but I think the errors were pretty evenly balanced against both teams, and the biggest one -- sending off Lehmann -- Terje Hauge got right. He could have held off on blowing his whistle, let the goal stand and shown Lehmann a yellow card instead, but the red card was fair, and frankly I think that Barca would have won anyway. Maybe Henry should spend less time pointing fingers and more time wondering why he couldn't score, even when he was one on one against the keeper.

The broadcast also reminded me (as if I needed any more reasons) how much I hate the ESPN feed. For this game, in addition to Tommy Smythe, rapidly becoming a caricature of himself, and Janusz Michallik, who's just as useless as a pitchside commentator as he is in the booth, we were also treated to Marcelo Balboa, former U.S. national team member and giant tool. His main contribution was enthusiastically defending Eboue for diving to win the free kick and then slamming Deco for trying the exact same thing later in the game. Also: Anthony LaPaglia as halftime analyst. WTF. Please tell me this isn't what I have to look forward to for the World Cup.

3 comments:

Jones said...

Mad Jens? Hee.

Really, I always thought Henry was better than "wah, wah biased refereeing", especially when it's, you know, not so much true. I want to know what he was saying to Wenger in the second half. I'd never pegged him as one to loose his cool. (Unlike certain of his teammates apparently. Eboue might want to invest in some anger management classes if he can fit them in around the acting workshops.)

"Marcelo Balboa, former U.S. national team member and giant tool. His main contribution was enthusiastically defending Eboue for diving to win the free kick and then slamming Deco for trying the exact same thing later in the game."
Man alive, did I ever hate that guy. I think I threw something at the tv everytime he talked. TOOOOOOOOOL.

Anthony LaPaglia looked like a deer in the headlights. Likely he, along with the rest of us, was wondering what the hell he was doing there.

Aaaand, this is like the comment that ate the blogosphere. Yikes.

footie girl said...

I wish I could take credit for "Mad Jens", but I stole it from somewhere -- probably the Guardian, like so much else.

Henry's conversation with Wenger I imagine something like, "What do you want from me? I am all alone up here, n'est-ce pas? You had better do something if you do not want me to fuck off to Barca next year." With a sort of Pepe LePew accent. And then Wenger sort of rolls his eyes and says he didn't see anything. And then they both shrug French-ily at each other.

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