Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Barca Dances On

We just got back from watching the Barca/AC Milan Champions League semi-finals, and though it ended in a nil-nil draw, the Catalans still move on to the finals (to be held in Paris on May 17th) against the Gunners (who won their bid to further their Champions hopes yesterday in a dreary nil-nil win over underdogs Villarreal) due to a one goal aggregate from the first leg. But unlike the twitchy Arsenal/Villa match, Barca played well and had more than a few brilliant opportunities--as did AC Milan--from Juliano Billetti (a fantastic chance in the 53rd minute that he simply failed to transform into GOAAAAL!!!!) and Henrik Larsson (who blew his chance in the 73rd) among others by the usual gang of suspects.

And despite the missed shots on goal, Barca managed to never lose their cool and kept the never flagging Milan squad from getting the upper hand, though for moments I felt myself blacking out from the tension and around the 50th minute kept wishing that the game would end soon so I could simply bask in the glow.

In regards to yesterday's Arsenal win--I hate to add to the criticism, but the Gunners really did play a particularly tight-assed game. Perhaps I just haven't watched them enough, and I'll certainly own up to the fact that I haven't over the years, but Arsenal's asleep at the wheel style of play and their ability to clamp down on Villa's persistent attacks left me feeling a bit mixed about the whole affair. I like the Gunners, and no doubt wanted them to win, but in the end I couldn't help but feel that the Yellow Submarine had the moral victory. Villa controlled much of the tempo and arguably would have finished off Arsenal if it hadn't been for stress-case Gunners keeper Jens Lehmann's marvelous saves. Sorry to my Gunners friends out there, but I felt a little disappointed by the end. But it's all about putting the ball in the net, isn't it? Sadly, it can't always be pretty.

You can read the play-by-play of the Barca/AC Milan match here.


Lynda said...

Yeah, I gotta admit a part of me feels like I bet on the wrong horse with the Arsenal pick. I still can't imagine getting excited about a final between Barca and Villareal but that Arsenal game was frankly awful, as was the look on the faces of Villareal players and fans at the end. Better luck to them next year.

Oh, and the match also confirmed my dislike of Jens Lehmann. Great keeper, but an incredibly irritating personality on the pitch.

Derek said...

I guess I should add that I'm quite aware of Arsenal's long standing reputation for playing boring, unimaginative football--okay, a reputation that was primarily relevant in the '70s and '80s. But really, Villarreal played the better game. I hate admitting that. Seriously. I DO like the Gunners and have watched them enough times to garner an appreciation for their style. There's no doubt that keeper Lehmann is an incredible force on the pitch and is having a great year--hence why he's been picked over Oliver Kahn to start for the German national team in the World Cup. And Henry is formidable, no doubt about it--though I increasingly find him "boringly perfect" much like a film critic once scribbled about actor Jude Law. Anyway, I guess the football romantic in me was a little bruised last night. I wanted Arsenal to outplay Villarreal. Simple as that. Well--with no disrespect to my Gunners friends--I hope Barca teaches Arsenal a few dance moves in May.

Ghost Dog said...

I wanted to see the Gunners go into El Madrigal and stomp Villa, myself. I thought they really didn't play the kind of attacking ball that they'd done in some of their EPL matches this year. I'm new to soccer fandom, so bear with me while I make an American Football reference, but they were reminding me of my Steelers of a couple seasons ago - get a lead and go into a shell, let the defense preserve the lead.

I hope the Gunners let it all hang out in the final.

Derek said...

Should be a dynamic Champions match, just as long as the whole thing isn't decided on penalty kicks. Like everyone else, I can't wait to see Henry and Ronaldinho meet up.